Iraqi forces bat­tle to free ‘IS cap­i­tal’

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

BAGH­DAD: Iraqi forces have launched a cam­paign to re­take Mo­sul, the self-de­clared cap­i­tal of the Is­lamic State (IS), the prime min­is­ter said yes­ter­day in what the US hailed as a “de­ci­sive mo­ment” in the bat­tle to crush the ji­hadists.

Up to 1.5 mil­lion civil­ians re­main in the city, the United Na­tions said, voic­ing fears the vastly out­num­bered mil­i­tants could use them as hu­man shields as they seek to re­pel the as­sault on its last ma­jor strong­hold in the coun­try.

“To­day I de­clare the start of these vic­to­ri­ous oper­a­tions to free you from the vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism of Daesh,” Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi said in a tele­vised ad­dress, us­ing an al­ter­na­tive name for the IS group.

Mo­sul fell to IS fight­ers two years ago. Its re­cap­ture would shat­ter the group’s claim to be run­ning a “caliphate” and would all but end its pres­ence in Iraq as a land-hold­ing force.

That claim re­ceived another body blow on Sun­day when Syr­ian rebels re­took the town of Dabiq from the group.

The anti-IS al­liance – in­clud­ing the US-led coali­tion, Kur­dish Pesh­merga and Iraqi gov­ern­ment forces – has re­cently been tight­en­ing the noose around Mo­sul, and the as­sault has long been pre­dicted.

But they will have to fight their way through IS de­fences to reach the city. Some groups are still dozens of kilo­me­tres from Mo­sul.

When they get there, the fight­ing is ex­pected to be fierce.

UN deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral for hu­man­i­tar­ian af­fairs and emer­gency relief Stephen O’Brien said civil­ians were in real dan­ger.

“I am ex­tremely con­cerned for the safety of up to 1.5 mil­lion liv­ing in Mo­sul who may be im­pacted by mil­i­tary oper­a­tions,” he said. – AFP

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