By Simon Kent.
Battling through an apocalyptic landscape of black smoke from burning oil, (fighters from the self declared Islamic State hoped this would hinder air strikes) Iraqi soldiers have reached the center of Qayyarah. Snipers held up the advance, before soldiers were able to capture a government compound.
Qayyarah is just 60 km south of Mosul, and the gradual advance, with the aid of military pontoon bridges and Coalition air support, suggests IS are either crumbling fast or pulling back for a harder fight in Mosul.
Led by a Sunni Colonel from the Jubbour tribe, the troops have found 1000 local residents still awaiting aid convoys with almost no access to clean water.
Last month, the army recaptured a nearby airbase once known to Americans as Qayyarah West, and now US troops are back at the facility in preparation to lend a supporting role in the final assault on Mosul, IS’ last urban stronghold in Iraq.