- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

BAGHDAD — Soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division’s Stryker Brigade combat team and Iraqi national guard units began an offensive yesterday against insurgents in the northern city of Mosul.

The coalition’s push into southern sections of the city came at the request of Gov. Duraid Kashmoula of Ninevah province, which includes Mosul, after a series of attacks on Iraqi security forces this week.

“Insurgent forces attacked several police stations and other targets within the city,” the U.S. military said. “In several cases, anti-Iraqi forces exceeded the capabilities of the police on site, requiring reinforcements.”

Five Iraqi national guardsmen were killed yesterday as militants roamed the streets, attacking and looting police stations.

Earlier this week, two U.S. soldiers died in a mortar attack.

“The Mosul governor has invoked immediate curfew, and all bridges are closed,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Paul Hastings. “The current situation is developing.”

Security and intelligence officials of the pro-American Kurdish autonomous region of northern Iraq say they have concluded that Mosul, an ethnically diverse city of 2.5 million near the Syrian and Turkish borders, might be the next battlefield in the war that insurgents are waging against the U.S.-led occupation force and the interim government.

“We are very worried about Mosul,” said Kosrat Rasool Ali, a high-level official with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controls the eastern half of the Kurdish region.

“The same terrorists who are in Fallujah are coming to Mosul. They are reorganizing themselves; they are coordinating with the other groups.”

Iraqi Kurds worry that fighting in Mosul, which lies just outside the Kurd-controlled areas, could spill over into other parts of northern Iraq, possibly destabilizing the three-province Kurdish enclave as well as other parts of the ethnically complex, oil-rich north.

“Mosul is a big threat,” said a high-level Kurdish security official in Irbil, 50 miles east of Mosul, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “It is going to be the second Fallujah, but even worse.”

A senior U.S. Embassy official in Baghdad acknowledged the deteriorating security situation, but downplayed the possibility of another Fallujah.

“Recent activity by terrorist elements and insurgents indicate that they are interested in disrupting the city, distracting attention from Fallujah and undermining progress that has been achieved in Mosul and throughout northern Iraq,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

“That said, I do not expect that Mosul will develop anything like Fallujah. The governor is still in control, and Iraqi security forces patrol the city.”

Unlike the ethnically and religiously homogenous cities of the Sunni Triangle such as Samarra, Fallujah and Ramadi, Mosul has a significant Christian minority and large populations of Kurds and Turkmen, with ties to Turkey, as well as the Sunni Arabs who populate the ranks of the insurgency.

After falling into chaos immediately after the U.S.-led invasion last year, Mosul became a relatively peaceful city under the control of Maj. Gen. David Petreaus and the U.S. Army’s 20,000-strong 101st Airborne Division.

The city is now controlled by the 8,500-soldier Stryker Brigade.

Delphine Minoui contributed to this report from Irbil.

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