Maryland National Guard aircraft join fight to take Mosul from the Islamic State

Attack planes from the Maryland Air National Guard are aiding a major offensive to wrest control of Mosul from the Islamic State, joining an ambitious assault aimed at dislodging the terror group from its last urban power center in Iraq.

Col. Charles S. Kohler, a spokesman for the Guard, confirmed that the aircraft were taking part in the battle but declined to provide any further details for security reasons. A dozen A-10s and 280 airmen from the Guard’s 104th Fighter Squadron deployed the Middle East last week, just days before the fight to retake Mosul began. The planes are scheduled to be retired in 2020 and the deployment to fight the Islamic State could be their last.

Iraqi military forces joined with Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias on Monday to begin the approach on Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and a major Islamic State stronghold. Those forces — numbering around 25,000 — are backed by U.S. air power and artillery as they work to clear villages on the city’s outskirts and confront an estimated 6,000 Islamic State fighters inside the city itself.

The Islamic State captured Mosul in a lightning advance in the summer of 2014 and a long-planned offensive to reclaim it has suffered several delays. The counterattack finally began Monday with a televised announcement by the Iraqi prime minister.

On Tuesday, Iraqi army forces advanced to the south and east of Mosul, reaching the outskirts al-Hamdaniyah, a historically Christian town also known as Bakhdida and Qaraqosh that was once home to tens of thousands, east of Mosul. On the southern front, Iraq’s federal police pushed toward up to the town of al-Houd, still home to hundreds of people, according to estimates from the United Nations.

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