BARTALLA, Iraq,, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 05th Nov, 2016 ) - Iraqi special forces threw themselves back into battle Saturday after a first foray into Mosul was blunted by stiffer than expected resistance from jihadists defending the birthplace of their "caliphate". While the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) fought the Islamic State group in the streets of Mosul, the army and Federal police attacked one of the last sizeable towns on the more distant southern front.
The mass exodus feared by aid groups of some of the million-plus civilians still trapped in Mosul has yet to materialise but the number of people displaced by the battle has grown sharply in recent days. "Our forces are now engaged in fierce fighting inside the neighbourhoods of east Mosul," CTS spokesman Sabah al-Noman said, adding that the "fighting is house to house." In Bartalla, a town to the east that Iraqi forces have used as a base since retaking it in the early days of the nearly three-week-old offensive, ambulances returning from the front with wounded CTS fighters whizzed by on a regular basis.
CTS forces made their first real push into the streets of Mosul on Friday but were met by a deluge of bombs and gunfire, and eventually forced into a partial pullback after a few hours. "We weren't expecting such resistance. They had blocked all the roads," said one officer. "There are large numbers of jihadists... It was preferable to pull back and devise a new plan."