NEAR MOSUL, Iraq — U.S. special operators were at the front line on the edge of Mosul earlier on Tuesday with elite Iraqi troops who were preparing to enter the Islamic State’s last stronghold in the country.
The Americans wore black uniforms and drove black armored vehicles, blending in with their Iraqi counterparts from the U.S.-trained Golden Division just outside the village of Gogjali on the eastern edge of Mosul. Several had skull and crossed swords patches and one had a sign on his helmet that read: “Hippie Killer.” They were not allowed to talk to the media and asked not to be photographed.
Later Tuesday, Iraq’s special forces entered the outskirts of Mosul, taking the state television building and advancing despite fierce resistance by Islamic State group fighters who control the city.
Troops entered Gogjali, a neighborhood inside Mosul’s city limits, and later the borders of the more built-up Karama district, according to Maj. Gen. Sami al-Aridi of the Iraqi special forces. As the sun went down, a sandstorm blew in, reducing visibility to only 100 meters (yards) and bringing the day’s combat to an end.
Meanwhile, U.S. Army engineers also pushed closer to the city, searching for improvised bombs just west of the Great Zab River, about halfway from the Kurdish city of Irbil to Mosul. The troops, wearing 101st Airborne Division patches, said they weren’t allowed to talk to the media. When a loud explosion rocked a nearby village, soldiers who had been scouting a roadside compound ran back to their armored vehicles.
The American special operators near Gogjali set up a mortar, unloaded a bazooka-style weapon and watched nearby fighting from a farmhouse roof.
From their position a large television antenna in the center of Mosul was visible. Rockets screamed through the air, machine guns barked and explosions shook the earth while the Golden Division troops pushed forward in armored vehicles.
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