US-led coalition huddles as forces inch towards Mosul
IRAQI forces were inching to within striking distance of eastern Mosul as coalition defence chiefs gathered in Paris agreed to also take on the jihadists’ Syrian bastion of Raqa.
With the Mosul battle in its second week, French President Francois Hollande called for the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group to prepare for the aftermath and the next stages of the campaign against the jihadists.
The United Nations said it had received reports of a new series of atrocities by the jihadists as troops close in on its last major urban stronghold in Iraq.
As Iraqi forces advance, the United Nations said it has received reports of dozens of execution-type killings by IS in Nineveh province, including 50 police officers who had been held hostage by the jihadists.
In Paris, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met coalition counterparts, including Pentagon chief Ashton Carter, to review the war on the IS after more than two years of air strikes, training and on-the-ground military advisers.
Besides coordinating their support for the forces closing in on Mosul, ministers also discussed the Syria side of the campaign and said they were “laying the groundwork” for the isolation of Raqa.
France is keen to tackle Raqa, where the 3000 to 4000 IS fighters include a contingent of around 300 French nationals whose potential return to France when the “caliphate” disintegrates is considered a major national threat.
Seeking to draw attention away from the Mosul campaign, the IS has staged attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk and the western town of Rutba in recent days.
Senior Iraqi and US military officials have reported that IS leaders are already trying to leave Mosul to reach the Syrian side of their “caliphate”.
But with its claim to run a “caliphate” losing credibility with every new loss of territory, the IS has mounted a fierce and well-organised resistance in the fight for Mosul. –