Toxic fumes are rising from the smoke in an area south of Mosul.
Already there have been almost 1,000 people that have been treated for breathing complications due to the toxic air, reports NBC. ISIS militants are suspected of starting the fire as Iraqi forces moved in on them to retake Mosul.
ISIS fighters have set up Sulphur stockpiles on fire, which has killed several civilians and sickened thousands more. This was ISIS’ attempt to slow troops from making their advance, reports The Independent.
About the Sulphur Plant
Mishraq Sulphur Plant was covered with thick yellow fumes over the weekend while the battle continued around it, reports The Independent. ISIS had blown up the plant several days prior, which killed two civilians. The fires are affecting the Iraqi forces movements, but they are still moving forward.
The Iraqi government is working hard to extinguish the flames, but there are also oil fires that they are combatting that were set earlier in the week by ISIS, reports NBC. CNN states that ISIS has been lighting oil wells throughout the area to obscure air views for bombing targets.
ISIS had plenty of time to prepare for the assault, which is why they had laced the plant with explosives throughout long before Iraqi forces ever showed up. During the first week of attacks, two bomb-making factors were discovered and the coalition detonated 400 IEDs, reports CNN.
The process of clearing villages that are full of IEDs is tedious and takes more time than the Iraqi forces have to give. A large number of casualties in the coalition are from the IEDs detonating instead of ISIS fights.
US troops located just south of Qayyarah were wearing gas masks for precaution, reports The Independent. Officials expect the fire to continue for several days since the same factory fire in 2003 burned for almost a month. It caused one of the largest man-made Sulphur dioxide releases, and the clouds could be seen from space.
How the Battle is Going
As of October 26th, 2016, 78 villages have been freed from ISIS, and CNN reports that 800 ISIS fighters have been killed during the liberation. The Iraqi forces have received significant resistance from ISIS, and ISIS continues to revisit liberated villages to reclaim territory.
ISIS is outnumbered by the Iraqi fighters, which is estimated at 90,000 strong so far. ISIS is striking back with their use of IEDs and suicide bombers, reports CNN. This is slowing the effort, but they are already reported to be well ahead of schedule for the takeover.
An essential part of the escape strategy from ISIS is the use of underground tunnels. There is a network of tunnels directly under Mosul that allows ISIS fighters to flee the city, move equipment, and even surprise Iraqi forces.
To keep forces confused, ISIS is also launching a series of attacks set for diversion. One was carried out in Kirkuk, which is 175 kilometers from Mosul.