Iraqi general calls on IS militants in Mosul to surrender

Bartella, a traditionally Christian town which fell to IS two years ago, is believed to be empty of civilians.

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, U.S. Central Command chief, said Wednesday things near Mosul are going according to plan, or better.

They used bulldozers and other heavy equipment to fill trenches and moved armoured vehicles into the breach after about an hour of mortar and gunfire at IS positions below in the village of Barima.

The Obama administration justifies US participation in the battle as a manifestation of support for the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and an expression of confidence in the policy of training and equipping Iraq's armed forces to defend their own country against the IS and other potential opponents.

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"The retaking of Islamic State's northern Iraq stronghold, Mosul, may lead to the return to Europe of violent ISIS fighters", King told the German newspaper "Die Welt".

To the north, airstrikes pounded Bashiqa as Kurdish forces fired mortar rounds from an area overlooking the IS-held town.

Tal Afar's population was a mix of Sunni and Shi'ite ethnic Turkmens until Shi'ites fled the town after Islamic State's ultra-hardline Sunni militants took over the region in 2014, declaring a "caliphate" over parts of Iraq and neighboring Syria. "We gained control over ten villages which we are cleansing", said Ahmad Abdelfattah, a member of the Peshmerga.

"We hope that our partners in the global coalition realise what freely roaming large IS gangs in the Middle East can lead to", he added, referring to Daesh. Gen. Gary Volesky, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, that the USA doesn't support their involvement.

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Up to 5,000 extremist fighters face the third day of the operation to drive out the terror group from the county's second largest city.

Iraq's US-trained special forces are seen as far more capable than the mainstream security forces that crumbled as Isis advanced in 2014.

Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday that Iraqi government and paramilitary forces detained, tortured or killed hundreds of Sunni Arab civilians fleeing IS-held areas during the operation to retake the Sunni city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, earlier this year.

Several towns on the surrounding Mosul plains have been liberated by the advancing Iraqi forces.

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Four days into the assault, US -backed government and Kurdish forces are steadily recovering outlying territory before the big push into the city itself, expected to be the biggest battle in Iraq since the 2003 USA -led invasion.

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