Booby traps everywhere in the push for Mosul

Iraqi special forces have met stiff resistance as they try to punch their way into the outer eastern edge of Mosul.

The area has been reinforced with concrete barriers and snipers and suicide bomb squads lie in wait for the advancing soldiers.

It made for a difficult day for the Golden Division, who took heavy casualties as they tried to press forwards into the district of Gogjali, on the edge of the city.

But even areas before Gogjali are not clear.

:: Special forces reach Mosul district for first time in two years


Iraqi Golden Division soldiers give V signs after advancing towards Mosul
Image Caption:
Iraqi Golden Division soldiers give V signs after advancing towards Mosul

Bazwaia, the last town before Mosul and just a couple of miles away, is a sprawling place where Islamic State militants are still managing to resist.

Fighters keep appearing and then vanishing again. They are using a network of tunnels and outbuildings to move around.

A storm kicked up sand from the arid fields surrounding the area providing the militants with natural cover.

The dusty haze stopped drones and aircraft from keeping an eye on what and who was moving down below.

IS is being beaten back in other places but just a handful of militants can slow the troops down for days.


Tribal fighters walk near burning oil wells in Qayyara
Image Caption:
Tribal fighters walk near burning oil wells in Qayyara

We followed the Golden Division as they entered buildings on the edge of Bazwaia.

Everything needs to be searched.

We moved nervously through a communications centre that was used by IS.

The soldiers destroyed equipment and made sure there were no Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

Booby traps have been laid everywhere.

Lieutenant Ali Abdul Karim told me there are many different types of explosive device. IS, also known as ISIS, is extremely inventive in the ways in which it can kill and maim.


A displaced Iraqi family flees the IS controlled village of Abu Jarboa
Image Caption:
A displaced Iraqi family flees the IS-controlled village of Abu Jarboa

“The first thing we do is completely encircle the area and block any entry or exit for any ISIS suicide car bombs to target us,” he said.

“After that, our second mission is to search the houses, buildings, factories for any ISIS fighters.

“Then, if there are families inside, we free them. As you know, ISIS will leave booby traps and IEDs in all of these places.”


A man fleeing Bazwaia village carries a white flag as he arrives at a checkpoint
Image Caption:
A man fleeing Bazwaia village carries a white flag as he arrives at a checkpoint

Mosul is the last IS stronghold and is the group’s centre of power in Iraq.

And it appears their fighters will offer fierce resistance.

But the prize for the moment is Gogjali. Taking Mosul will not be easy – weeks, possibly months, of street fighting lie ahead. 

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