BAGHDAD (AP) — The pace of operations slowed on Tuesday as Iraqi forces began pushing toward larger villages and encountering civilian populations on the second day of a massive operation to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group.
Here is a look at the key developments on the second day of the Mosul offensive:
THE ARMY ADVANCES
The army reached the outskirts of al-Hamdaniyah, a historically Christian town also known as Bakhdida, and Qaraqosh, which was once home to tens of thousands. Iraq’s federal police pushed toward up to the town of al-Houd, still home to hundreds of people.
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Kurdish forces known as peshmerga, who captured a handful of villages on the first day of the operation, largely paused to focus on consolidating their gains.
More than 25,000 troops have mobilized for the Mosul fight, a massive operation that’s expected to take weeks, if not months. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city and the largest urban area controlled by IS.
TURKEY TENSIONS RISE
In Baghdad, thousands of followers of an Iraqi Shiite cleric marched in front of the Turkish Embassy demanding the withdrawal of Turkish troops from a base near Mosul.
“Get out, Get out, occupier!” and “Yes, yes, for Iraq,” chanted the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr.
Turkey says the troops are training Iraqi fighters to help retake Mosul, and that they are there with the permission of the Iraqi government. Baghdad denies it granted permission and has ordered the Turks to withdraw — a call Ankara has ignored.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the fighters trained at the Bashiqa camp near Mosul were at the forefront of the operation, fighting alongside Kurdish forces.
OBAMA EXPECTS ‘DIFFICULT FIGHT’
In Washington, President Barack Obama said retaking Mosul will require a “difficult fight.” He said there would be advances and setbacks, but that driving IS from the city “will be another step toward their ultimate destruction.”
Speaking at the White House alongside Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Obama said a top priority for both of their governments is the safety and humanitarian aid for the approximately 1 million people who still live in Mosul and could suffer during the fighting.