Turkish PM in Iraq amid ‘occupation’ tensions
Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has arrived in Baghdad following a war of words between the two neighbors over the unauthorized presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq.
The two-day visit is the first in its kind since the two governments quarreled over the incursion of Turkish troops into northern Iraq, straining relations to the point of a military face-off.
Yildirim was welcomed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad before heading to talks, but the Iraqi state TV didn’t give details on schedule.
“We hope that his (Yildirim’s) visit will open a new chapter in Turkey-Iraq relations,” Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq Faruk Kaymakci said on his Twitter account.
Turkey’s deployment of some 500 Turkish troops into the Bashiqa region northeast of the Daesh-held city of Mosul has triggered a chorus of protest from the Iraqi government, political groups and people.
Last December, Turkey deployed a number of soldiers, equipped with heavy arms and backed by tanks, to the Bashiqa military camp on the outskirts of Mosul.
Ankara claimed the deployment was part of a mission to train and equip Iraqi Kurdish forces in the fight against Daesh. However, Baghdad has repeatedly denounced the move as a violation of its sovereignty and called for the withdrawal of Turkish troops.
Troops close in on Tigris
A spokesman for the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) says Iraqi forces have closed in on the Tigris River that divides the northern city of Mosul in half.
“Counterterrorism forces have been sent about 500 meters from the fourth bridge,” Sabah al-Numan told reporters east of Mosul on Saturday.
Numan further noted that Iraqi troops were the closest they had been to the strategic river and were advancing as a result of new tactics and better coordination among different branches of the army.
Federal police and CTS forces “are now moving in parallel on both axes” in southeastern Mosul, where a major operation is underway to retake the city from Daesh terrorists, the official pointed out.
“We are proceeding side by side … and advancing at the same level,” he said, adding, “We have worn down the terrorist organization with this type of advance.”
Almost 200 Militants slain in Mosul
Meanwhile, on Friday, a total of 194 Daesh elements were killed in the Iraqi forces’ push to recapture Mosul.
The Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement that 22 Takfiris died in the army’s drone strikes in the city.
Meanwhile, Arabic-language al-Forat news agency reported the recapture of al-Asar village in western Mosul by the Iraqi popular forces.
Separately, Commander of Federal Police Forces Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat said that Daesh prisons were uncovered in the recently liberated Mosul’s al-Wahdah region, situated on the left bank of the Tigris River.
Additionally, an unidentified security source in the Iraqi Army’s 7th Division in Anbar Province announced the liberation of the villages of al-Zawiyah and al-Sakrah in western Ramadi.
The Anbar operation left 13 Daesh terrorists dead and destroyed 105 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as well as 11 rockets and three warehouses storing guns.
Iraqi forces also managed to hoist the national flag over buildings in Ghufran Khuser eastern Mosul. The Iraqi flag was further raised over two hospitals and a medical college in southern Mosul.
Terror attacks kill civilians in Salahuddin
Elsewhere, an IED was detonated targeting locals who were fleeing Daesh-held areas in the Jabal Hamrin district of Salahuddin Province, killing two people and injuring 26 others, among them women and children.
Another booby-trap also went off in Baghdad’s Yusufiyah, leaving one person dead and four others wounded.
Moreover, a similar blast hit Baghdad’s Mushahid neighborhood where a tribesman was slain and three more sustained injuries.