Iraqi forces ad­vance on Mo­sul

The Myanmar Times - - World -

IRAQI forces are “ahead of sched­ule” in an of­fen­sive aimed at re­tak­ing Mo­sul and deal­ing a death blow to the Is­lamic State group, but the bat­tle will be dif­fi­cult and pro­tracted, the Pen­tagon has said.

The start of the long-awaited as­sault raised deep con­cerns for hundreds of thou­sands of civil­ians trapped in Iraq’s sec­ond largest city, with aid groups warn­ing of a mas­sive hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

Some 30,000 fed­eral forces are lead­ing the of­fen­sive, backed by air and ground sup­port from a 60-na­tion US-led coali­tion, in what is ex­pected to be a long as­sault on the IS’s last ma­jor Iraqi strong­hold.

The Pen­tagon said the op­er­a­tion had be­gun well but warned it would be a “dif­fi­cult cam­paign that could take some time”. A top US gen­eral ear­lier said it would take sev­eral weeks or even longer.

“Early in­di­ca­tions are that Iraqi forces have met their ob­jec­tives so far, and that they are ahead of sched­ule for this first day,” Pen­tagon press secretary Peter Cook said.

IS forces are vastly out­num­bered, with the US mil­i­tary es­ti­mat­ing 3000 to 4500 ji­hadists in and around Mo­sul.

But they have had months to pre­pare and will seek to use hit-and-run tac­tics, am­bushes, snipers, bombs, berms and trenches to slow down and bleed Iraqi forces.

In an on­line state­ment af­ter the as­sault be­gan, the IS claimed it launched a series of deadly sui­cide car bomb­ings against Iraqi forces.

Early yes­ter­day, fed­eral forces moved from their main stag­ing base of Qay­yarah, south of Mo­sul, as pesh­merga forces from the au­ton­o­mous Kur­dish re­gion ad­vanced from the east.

Around 4000 Kur­dish pesh­merga took part in a push to re­claim vil­lages once in­hab­ited by mem­bers of the Chris­tian and Kakai mi­nori­ties.

Sev­eral vil­lages were promptly re­cap­tured and pesh­merga forces have moved to the edges of Qaraqosh and Bar­talla, two Chris­tian towns the IS seized in Au­gust 2014.

The UN hu­man­i­tar­ian co­or­di­na­tor

in Iraq, Lise Grande, told re­porters that an ex­o­dus could be­gin within a week and some aid groups wor­ried about pre­pared­ness.

“It is es­ti­mated that as many as 200,000 peo­ple could flee from the city in these first weeks, though there are cur­rently only 60,000 tents avail­able in seven emer­gency camps,” the In­ter­na­tional Res­cue Com­mit­tee said.

If Mo­sul falls, only Raqa in Syria would re­main as the last ma­jor city un­der IS con­trol. –

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