Footage from front line in Iraq could show ISIS militants surrendering to the country’s armed forces following days of intense fighting in Ninieveh province. Video circulating on social media purports to show suspected jihadis kneeling outside a desert town, which could be al-Ayadieh, patrolled by Iraqi peshmerga troops. ISIS fighters fled to al-Ayadieh after key town of Tal Afar, one of its final strongholds in country, fell last week. Today, Iraqi military officials announced they had recaptured the eastern half of al-Ayadieh from extremists.
Troops, police and special forces seized full control of city of Tal Afar, ten miles from al-Ayadieh, last Sunday. Between ‘150 and 200 ISIS fighters moved with their families up to Al-Ayadieh’, according to Brigadier General Andrew A Croft, deputy commander of US-led coalition air units. Iraqi forces had told fighting in area had been ‘multiple times worse’ than the battle for Mosul’s old city, which was retaken from ISIS last month. Hundreds of battle-hardened fighters were positioned inside most houses and high buildings inside the town, making it difficult for government forces to make any progress. Iraqi government troops captured town of Mosul from ISIS in July, but only after 9 months of grinding urban warfare. But one Iraqi officer, Colonel Kareem al-Lami, described breaching militants’ first line of defense in al-Ayadieh as like opening ‘the gates of hell’. Tough resistance from militants in al-Ayadieh forced Iraqi forces to increase the number of air strikes.
They also brought in reinforcements from the federal police to boost units from the army, air force, Federal Police, elite US trained Counter-Terrorism Service and some units from the Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces. Up to 2’000 battle-hardened militants were believed to be defending Tal Afar against around 50’000 government troops last week. Military intelligence indicated that many militants fled Tal Afar to mount a staunch defense in al-Ayadieh. Many motorcycles carrying ISIS insignia were seen abandoned at the side of road outside al-Ayadieh. Though the exact numbers of militants on ground in al-Ayadieh was still unclear, al-Lami, Iraqi Army colonel, estimated they were in their ‘hundreds’. ‘Daesh (ISIS) fighters in their hundreds are taking positions inside almost every single house in the town’ he told. Sniper shots, mortars, heavy machine guns and anti-armored projectiles were fired from every single house. ‘We thought the battle for Mosul’s Old City was tough, but this one proved to be multiple times worst’ al-Lami added. ‘We are facing tough fighters who have nothing to lose and are ready to die.’
2 army officers said Reuters that no significant advances had yet been made in al-Ayadieh. They told they were waiting for artillery and air strikes to undermine militants power. Extra Federal Police troops that were called in told late on Tuesday that they had controlled 50% of town, deploying snipers on high buildings and intensified shelling the militants headquarters with rockets, a federal police spokesman told in a statement. Tal Afar became next target of the US backed war on jihadist group following the recapture of Mosul, where it had declared its ‘caliphate’ over parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014.