Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

The Kurdish gun fixer taking aim at Islamic State

Marius Bosch writes for Reuters:

In Iraqi Kurdistan he is simply known as Uasta - "the fixer".

For the past 30 years, Mohammed Fadil has been turning hardened steel salvaged from car suspensions into delicate firing pins and other weapon parts to repair the guns used by Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces against their many enemies. Now those weapons are being turned on Islamic State in the battle for Mosul.

Fadil joined the peshmerga - which means "those who confront death" - when he was 15.

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Iraq peshmerga storm Islamic State town as army battles in Mosul

Michael Georgy writes for Reuters:

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces stormed an Islamic State-held town northeast of Mosul on Monday, trying to clear a pocket of militants outside the city while Iraqi troops wage a fierce urban war with the jihadists in its eastern neighborhoods.

As the operation against Islamic State's Iraqi stronghold entered its fourth week, fighters across the border launched an offensive in the Syrian half of the jihadist group's self-declared caliphate, targeting its base in the city of Raqqa.

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28 hours: Leading the Mosul attack, under fire, then trapped

Arwa Damon and Brice Laine report for CNN:

For more than 28 hours, CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon and photojournalist Brice Laine were with Iraqi special forces during their push into ISIS-held Mosul. It was a new phase of the liberation operation -- switching from villages and open terrain to a dense city that a well-equipped ISIS is determined to defend.

Their convoy was leading the operation Friday when it came under attack multiple times.

Inside the armored vehicles, hiding with families in houses, Arwa Damon kept notes amid the heat of the battle. Here is her account, with occasional strong language. It has been lightly edited for clarity.

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Kurds deny forcing Arabs from Iraq’s Kirkuk

Al Jazeera reports:

Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq have rejected accusations by a rights group that their forces destroyed Arab homes and forced residents from the ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk.

The UK-based Amnesty International, in a statement published on Monday, said Kurdish forces carried out a "wave of attacks" that followed an unsuccessful attack on Kirkuk by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in October.

However, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) strongly rejected the rights group's accusation, describing the claims as "one sided".

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Mosul Battle Rages as IS Bombings Elsewhere in Iraq Kill 20

Susannah George reports for AP:

Iraq's special forces worked Sunday to clear neighborhoods on the eastern edge of Islamic State-held Mosul as bombings launched by the extremist group elsewhere in the country killed at least 20 people.

The Mosul offensive has slowed in recent days as Iraqi forces have pushed into more densely populated areas, where they cannot rely as much on airstrikes and shelling because of the risk posed to civilians, who have been told to stay in their homes.

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ISIS counterattacks show tough battle ahead for Mosul city center

AP reports:

Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, launched counterattacks Saturday against Iraqi special forces in eastern Mosul, emerging from populated areas deeper in the city to target the troops with mortars and suicide car bombs in clashes that raged late into the night.

Artillery shelling thundered across the city as snipers traded fire from rooftops and civilians emerged from the front lines waving white flags. There were fresh indications that other residents were being held back by the militants to be used as human shields.

The seesawing battle highlights the challenges ahead for Iraqi forces as they press into more densely populated neighborhoods of the country’s second largest city, where they will not be able to rely as much on airstrikes because of the risk of killing civilians.

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Iraqi troops storm town south of Mosul

Mohammed Tawfeeq and Laura Smith-Spark write for CNN:

Iraq's federal police forces and army troops attacked the ISIS-held town of Hammam al-Alil, south of Mosul, on Saturday as Iraqi-led coalition forces seek to drive back ISIS militants from their last major Iraqi stronghold.

The Iraqi air force provided air cover for the assault Saturday morning, according to Iraq's Joint Military Command.

Iraqi troops are advancing from three fronts toward Hammam-al-Alil, about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) south of Mosul, and have reached the College of Agriculture at its edge, a statement said.

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Iraq’s Vital Weapon Against ISIS in Mosul

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Ali A. Nabhan write for The Wall Street Journal:

Islamic State fighters under siege by Iraqi forces have increasingly sent explosive-packed cars and trucks barreling toward the front lines. The Iraqi military’s answer to armored vehicle bombs is a Russian-made antitank missile mounted atop an American-made Humvee.

The successful use of the Kornet missiles—price tag $250,000 apiece—helped clear the way for the Iraqi army’s advance on Mosul, the extremist group’s last major stronghold in Iraq.

Many weapons can disable vehicle bombs, but only the Kornet, which can penetrate 3 feet of metal, can stop an armored vehicle bomb, Iraqi military commanders said.

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Mosul satellite images reveal IS barricades

BBC reports:

Satellite images of Mosul have revealed how fighters from so-called Islamic State have constructed multiple barricades across key routes into the northern Iraqi city.

The imagery, released by US geopolitical intelligence company Stratfor and taken on 31 October, shows a defensive line built across the city's southern edge.

The jihadists have also destroyed a number of buildings south of their positions around Mosul airport to enable them to observe advancing government forces, Stratfor says.

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Elite Iraq forces punch into Mosul, face tough resistance

Sarah Benhaida reports for AFP:

Jihadist fighters unleashed a deluge of bombs and gunfire Friday on Iraqi forces punching into the streets of Mosul for the first time, forcing some units into a partial pullback.

Some armoured vehicles from the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) returned from the streets of Al-Karamah a few hours after moving in and encountering fierce resistance from the Islamic State group, an AFP correspondent reported.

"We weren't expecting such resistance. They had blocked all the roads," said one officer, as top brass considered whether or not to attempt a fresh foray.

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