Iraq se­nior mil­i­tary com­man­der killed in fight­ing IS

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

BAGH­DAD—Sniper fire by ISIS mil­i­tants killed a se­nior Iraqi com­man­der near the north­ern IS-held city of Mo­sul, the ex­trem­ist group’s main bas­tion in Iraq, as the UN refugee agency warned that thou­sands of civil­ians have been newly dis­placed from that area.

Iraq’s De­fense Min­istry said late Tues­day that Brig. Ahmed Badr al-Luhaibi, the com­man­der of Brigade 71st of Di­vi­sion 15, was killed by a sniper dur­ing an op­er­a­tion to re­take a vil­lage south of Mo­sul.

The state­ment lauded alLuhaibi as a “knight” and said his death would “in­crease our de­ter­mi­na­tion to clear” the en­tire prov­ince of Nin­eveh, where Mo­sul is the provin­cial cap­i­tal, of IS mil­i­tants.

Mo­sul — Iraq’s sec­ond­largest city — fell to ISIS dur­ing the mil­i­tants’ June 2014 on­slaught that cap­tured large swaths of north­ern and western Iraq and also al­most a third of neigh­bor­ing Syria. The city, about 360 kilo­me­ters (225 miles) north­west of Bagh­dad, be­came also the largest city in the ex­trem­ist group’s self-de­clared caliphate on the ter­ri­to­ries the mil­i­tants con­trol.

Along with a ma­jor of­fen­sive to re­take Fal­lu­jah, a city in western An­bar prov­ince, Iraqi troops have this week re­sumed small-scale oper­a­tions to dis­lodge ISIS mil­i­tants from ar­eas to the south and south­east of Mo­sul.

In late March, the gov­ern­ment forces launched a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion aimed at clear­ing ar­eas be­tween Mak­mour and the ad­ja­cent Qa­yara ar­eas out­side of Mo­sul, to the east of the Ti­gris River, and to cut one of the sup­ply lines to the nearby ISIS-held Shirqat area.

But re­tak­ing Mo­sul it­self is not likely to come any­time soon. It will be an enor­mous un­der­tak­ing for the Iraqi troops, even though they are backed by airstrikes from the US-led coali­tion and have been joined by pro-gov­ern­ment fight­ers, mostly Shi­ite mili­tias.

Iraqi and US of­fi­cials have re­frained from giv­ing a spe­cific time for a Mo­sul op­er­a­tion, say­ing it would take many months to pre­pare Iraq’s still strug­gling mil­i­tary. Some of the US and Iraqi of­fi­cials have said it may not even be pos­si­ble to re­take it this year, de­spite re­peated vows by Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi.—Agen­cies

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