1,000 Daesh militants killed in Mosul, says Iraq

An Iraqi military helicopter lands on a highway that links to Mosul, near Bartella town east of Mosul, Iraq, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 29 November 2016
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1,000 Daesh militants killed in Mosul, says Iraq

BARTELLA, Iraq: Iraqi special forces battling to clear Daesh from eastern Mosul have killed nearly 1,000 militants but fighting has slowed as troops face a mobile enemy hidden among thousands of civilians in the city, a top commander said.

Six weeks into a major offensive, Iraqi forces have captured nearly half of eastern Mosul, moving from district to district against militant snipers, suicide attackers and car bombs.
Elite Iraqi troops, known as the “Golden Division,” are the only brigades to have entered Mosul from the east, with Iraqi army, federal police and Kurdish Peshmerga units surrounding the city to the north and south. Shiite militias are trying to complete the encirclement from the west.
The US-trained Counter Terrorism Service unit breached Daesh’s defenses at the end of October, but has been slowed by the militants’ mobile tactics and concern over civilian casualties preventing the use of tanks and heavy armor.
Maj. Gen. Abdul Ghani Al-Asadi, one of the commanders of the special forces, said troops had adapted their tactics, surrounding one district at a time to cut off the militants’ supplies and protect civilians.
“Progress was faster at the start. The reason is we were operating before in areas without residents,” Asadi told Reuters in Bartella, on Mosul’s outskirts.
“We have arrived in populated districts. So how do we protect civilians? We have sealed off district after district.”
He said around 990 militants had been killed in fighting in the east so far. He would not say how many casualties there were among government special forces.
“We have made changes to plans, partly due to the changing nature of the enemy ... Daesh is not based in one location, but moving from here to there,” he said.
“Tanks don’t work here, artillery is not effective. Planes from the coalition force and the air force are restricted because of the civilians.”

Thousands displaced
The Iraqi government has asked civilians in Mosul to stay at home during the offensive, as humanitarian organizations say they cannot cope with an influx of hundred of thousands of people displaced from the city.
More than one million people are believed to remain in the city, the largest in northern Iraq. Defeating Daesh in Mosul, Daesh’s last major bastion in Iraq, is seen as vital to destroying the group.
But commanders have said the battle could take months. Dozens of districts must be taken in the east before attacking forces reach the Tigris River which splits Mosul into east and west.

US air strikes have taken out four of the five river bridges used by the militants.
Maj. Gen. Najm Al-Jubbouri, one of the army’s top commanders, told Reuters that the western part of the city could be the more dangerous.
To the south, Iraqi army brigades are now advancing slowly on the remaining Daesh-held villages before reaching the city limits. To the west, the mostly Iranian-backed Shiite militias known as Popular Mobilization have cut off the highway to Syria, but they have yet to close in on the city.
“The force left in front of us is small, unable to stop our advance. Their spirit is broken,” Asadi said.
“We have killed more than 992 fighters on our front plus more wounded ... Their supplies and communications to the outside world are cut. They stage fewer suicide bombings.”
Iraqi military estimates initially put the number of insurgents in Mosul at 5,000 to 6,000, facing a 100,000-strong coalition force. But Asadi said the figure for the Daesh presence may have been too high.
Iraqi authorities have not released estimates of civilian casualties but the United Nations says growing numbers of injured, both civilians and military, are overwhelming aid groups.


Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence. (Reuters)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Tunisia’s premier unlikely to push reform as polls loom

  • By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011
  • Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up

Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has survived attempts by his own party and unions to force him out but, with elections looming, looks less and less able to enact the economic reforms that have so far secured IMF support for an ailing economy.

Last week, the Nidaa Tounes party suspended Chahed after a campaign by the party chairman, who is the son of President Beji Caid Essebsi.

Chahed has gathered enough support in Parliament to stave off a possible vote of no confidence by working with the co-ruling Islamist Ennahda party and a number of other lawmakers including 10 Nidaa Tounes rebels. But his political capital is now badly depleted.

By surviving for more than two years, Chahed has become the longest-serving of Tunisia’s nine prime ministers since the Arab Spring in 2011.

In that time, he has pushed through austerity measures and structural reforms such as cutting fuel subsidies that have helped to underpin a $2.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other financial support.

Western partners see him as the best guarantee of stability in an infant democracy that they are desperate to shore up, not least as a bulwark against extremism.

Yet the economy, and living standards, continue to suffer: inflation and unemployment are at record levels, and goods such as medicines or even staples such as milk are often in short supply, or simply unaffordable to many.

And in recent months, the 43-year old former agronomist’s main focus has been to hold on to his job as his party starts to look to its ratings ahead of presidential and parliamentary polls in a year’s time.

The breathing space he has won is at best temporary; while propping him up for now, Ennahda says it will not back him to be prime minister again after the elections.

And, more pressingly, the powerful UGTT labor union on Thursday called a public sector strike for Oct. 24 to protest against Chahed’s privatization plans.

This month, the government once more raised petrol and electricity prices to secure the next tranche of loans, worth $250 million, which the IMF is expected to approve next week.

But the IMF also wants it to cut a public wage bill that takes up 15 percent of GDP, one of the world’s highest rates.