Battle for Mosul: Islamic State use hobby drones to bomb Iraqi forces, says US

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IS militants are attaching small munitions to quadcopters in attempt to kill Iraqi troops that are retaking Mosul

Iraqi forces have been advancing in east Mosul as they prepare to retake IS-held west side of city (Reuters)
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Thursday 12 January 2017 9:38 UTC
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Islamic State (IS) militants are using small commercially purchased drones to attack Iraqi security forces in the battle for Mosul, a US commander said on Wednesday.

Colonel Brett Sylvia, who commands an "advise and assist" US unit in Iraq, said IS militants are attaching small munitions to quadcopters in an attempt to kill local forces as they are retaking Mosul, the last major IS bastion in Iraq.

"They are small drones with small munitions that they've been dropping," Sylvia said.

While the munitions were no larger than "a small little grenade," he said, that was enough to do what "Daesh does, and that's just, you know, indiscriminate killing," he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The group's use of small drones is not new, Sylvia said, though initially they were mainly used for reconnaissance.

"They are [now] using them to drop munitions as Iraqi forces push into Mosul," he said.

A report by the Conflict Armament Research group (CAR) in October showed the inside of an IS drone workshop in Ramadi, where militants were attempting to build, and possibly weaponise, their own drones.

Sylvia added that US-backed local troops have been able to bring down many of the drones, making them "much less effective than they were".

Tens of thousands of allied troops launched a huge offensive on 17 October to retake Mosul and areas around it.

Early in the offensive, a variety of forces quickly retook significant swaths of land, but the going has been much tougher deeper inside the city.

Iraqi forces have retaken at least 80 percent of east Mosul from IS, the spokesman of the special forces spearheading the campaign said on Wednesday.

Elite troops have pushed into several neighbourhoods in the east and northeast of the city in the past few days as they attempt to reach the Tigris River that bisects Mosul before launching an offensive on the west, which the militants still hold.

Iraq's counter-terrorism service (CTS) units were advancing into the northeastern Sadeeq and 7th Nissan districts, according to a senior commander on the ground.

A Reuters reporter in eastern Mosul saw CTS forces fighting IS militants in Sadeeq, firing towards Mosul University and into the adjacent Hadba area, which army units advancing from the north had breached a day earlier.

The forces are expected to meet somewhere in between.

"Operations are ongoing and this district will be liberated very shortly, God willing," Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi told Reuters on the front line in Sadeeq, one block from the strategically important university complex.

Over the past two weeks, Iraqi forces have overrun several districts and, for the first time, reached the banks of the Tigris River.

"There's a lot of fight that's left to do in western Mosul," Sylvia said, noting that IS had conducted extensive defensive work.

Still, he said, IS resistance has weakened in many areas.