ISIS militants exploit rain and strike Iraqi militias west and south of Mosul

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Islamic State militants staged near-simultaneous attacks on state-sanctioned militia positions west and south of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, apparently taking advantage of poor weather conditions which normally disrupt air support, two militia officials said on Saturday.

An official said IS militants breached the defenses of Shiite militiamen in a village west of the city of Tal Afar in northern Iraq. Reached by telephone near Tal Afar, he specified that the attack on the village of Sharea took place on Friday evening. Fighting continued on Saturday, he added, without giving details.

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An IS statement on Saturday said the attack on the village began with a suicide car bomb that killed and injured “dozens” of militiamen. A “multipronged” attack on the village followed, forcing the militiamen to flee, he added.

IS fighters seized nine all-terrain vehicles equipped with machine guns, two Humvees, weapons and ammunition from the militiamen, the statement said.

In the second attack, the militants targeted a Sunni tribal militia deployed in the town of Shirqat south of Mosul on Friday evening, according to a militia official. He gave no details and IS had no immediate information about the attack.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to brief the media.

Bad weather persisted in northern Iraq on Saturday, with heavy fog, rain and a dust storm. Such conditions normally reduce air activity by the Iraqi military or the allied coalition led by the United States to a minimum.

Shiite militias seized the airstrip just outside Tal Afar last month, but no attack has yet been launched to retake the town itself. Tal Afar and Mosul were captured by IS in 2014 as part of a blitz by the extremist group that gave them control of large swaths of territory in northern and western Iraq.

The Iraqi government launched a massive campaign in October to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city and the last major urban center still held by IS in Iraq.

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