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Allied forces seize strategic Mosul

US special operations troops and Kurdish peshmerga fighters seized a strategic hilltop near the major Baghdad-held city in northern Iraq.

world Updated: Apr 09, 2003 13:22 IST

US special operations troops and Kurdish peshmerga fighters seized a strategic hilltop near the major Baghdad-held city of Mosul in northern Iraq early on Wednesday, a senior Kurdish leader said.

The area called Maqloub, 15 kilometers northeast of Mosul and heavily defended by Iraqi forces, was a hub for air defences against coalition air strikes as well as a munitions center, said Hoshyar Zebari, a leading member of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party.

"From our perspective it was the most important gain ... so far," Zebari said. "This shows the crumbling of the northern front."

Control of this hilltop means that no Iraqi defences remain between Kurdish-U.S. forces and the center of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, Zebari said.

Kurdish control of the area also will allow passage for people wishing to escape Mosul, and could be a prelude to coalition forces entering the city on the ground, he said.

But Zebari stressed there would be no unilateral Kurdish move, saying the operation was being coordinated with the Pentagon Coalition airstrikes preceded the early morning ground assault, and there was not much resistance, he said. This suggested "the demoralizing situation of the Iraqi army," he said. Zebari had no information about casualties or prisoners.

First Published: Apr 09, 2003 12:47 IST