MOSUL, Iraq, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 04th Nov, 2016 ) - Jihadist fighters unleashed a deluge of bombs and gunfire Friday on Iraqi forces punching into the streets of Mosul for the first time, forcing some units into a partial pullback. Some armoured vehicles from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) returned from the streets of Al-Karamah a few hours after moving in and encountering fierce resistance from the Islamic State group, an AFP correspondent reported.
"We weren't expecting such resistance. They had blocked all the roads," said one officer, as top brass considered whether or not to attempt a fresh foray. "There are large numbers of jihadists... It was preferable to pull back and devise a new plan," the CTS officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Some CTS forces remained inside the city however and there were at least five regiments involved in the operation launched Friday, making it hard to gauge the extent of the pullback.
After daybreak, bulldozers and tanks backed by air strikes had pushed into the streets of Mosul from the east for the first time since Iraqi forces launched a broad offensive to retake the city on October 17. The CTS's "Mosul regiment", which was the last to leave the city when the jihadists overran it in June 2014, immediately faced "tough resistance", commander Muntadhar Salem told AFP. The gunfire was almost uninterrupted for hours and reports from the front crackling into CTS radios said IS had set up barriers and laid bombs all along the streets.
Air strikes by the US-led coalition had intensified over the past two days, despite the smoke from burning tyres set on fire by IS in a bid to provide cover. They ebbed when the push on the ground got under way however. The resistance came despite widespread reports in recent weeks that top IS commanders had left the eastern side of the city and crossed the Tigris river to regroup on its west bank.