Airstrike Kills 19 Pro-Government Fighters in Iraq, Tribal Leader Says

Following hours of clashes between pro-government forces and ISIS

(BAGHDAD) — A tribal leader said Wednesday that an airstrike had killed 19 pro-government tribal Sunni fighters south of the town of Mosul, which is held by ISIS.

Sheikh Nazhan al-Lihaibi said the airstrike took place at 2 a.m. Wednesday, following hours of clashes between his troops and ISIS militants in the Haj Ali area to the east of the town of Qayara. Al-Lihaibi said five more fighters were wounded.

The U.S.-led coalition said it had carried out strikes in the area at the request of Iraqi security forces, adding that it had destroyed a building and killed eight enemy fighters.

“We are aware of the reports that Sunni tribal fighters were in the building that was struck and we are taking those reports seriously,” a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said. He said the Coalition and Iraqi security forces were carrying out a joint investigation into the incident.

Al-Lihaibi said his fighters had repelled an attack by ISIS late Wednesday, and another two of his fighters had been killed in the clashes.

With aerial support from the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqi government forces and paramilitary troops retook the town of Qayara in August. The town, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Mosul, is key for the long-awaited military operation to dislodge ISIS militants from Mosul.

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is located about 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad. While the Syrian city of Raqqa is considered the caliphate’s de facto capital, Mosul is the largest city under its control. The Iraqi government is now gearing up for a major offensive to retake Mosul from IS. It pledged to recapture the city this year.

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