War­lord blown up in lift at his apart­ment

Iraqi forces start mis­sion to re­take ISIS strong­hold

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS -

Iraqi and Kur­dish forces, backed by US-led airstrikes, launched co­or­di­nated mil­i­tary oper­a­tions early yes­ter­day as the long-awaited fight to wrest the north­ern city of Mo­sul from ISIS fight­ers got un­der way. But the bat­tle is likely to be long and it was un­clear when the troops would en­ter the city it­self.

The fate of more than a mil­lion civil­ians trapped in­side Mo­sul will also be crit­i­cal as the bat­tle in­ten­si­fies in the days and weeks ahead amid con­cerns that ISIS could use them as hu­man shields.

Con­voys of Iraqi, Kur­dish and US forces moved east of Mo­sul along the front line as airstrikes sent plumes of smoke into the air and heavy ar­tillery rounds rum­bled in the dis­tance.

Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al Abadi an­nounced the start of the oper­a­tions on state tele­vi­sion, launch­ing the coun­try’s tough­est bat­tle since Amer­i­can troops left nearly five years ago.

Mo­sul, Iraq’s sec­ond largest city, fell to ISIS in the sum­mer of 2014, and weeks later the head of the ex­trem­ist group, Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, an­nounced the for­ma­tion of a self-styled caliphate from the pul­pit of one of its mosques.

“These forces that are lib­er­at­ing you to­day, they have one goal in Mo­sul which is to get rid of Daesh and to se­cure your dig­nity,” Al Abadi said, ad­dress­ing the city’s res­i­dents. “God will­ing, we shall win.”

If suc­cess­ful, the lib­er­a­tion of Mo­sul would be the big­gest blow yet to ISIS. Al Abadi pledged the fight for the city would lead to the lib­er­a­tion of all Iraqi ter­ri­tory from the mil­i­tants this year.

Iraqi forces have been mass­ing around Mo­sul in re­cent days, in­clud­ing elite spe­cial forces that are ex­pected to lead the charge into the city, as well as Kur­dish forces, Sunni tribal fight­ers, fed­eral po­lice and state-sanc­tioned Shia mili­tias.

South of Mo­sul, Iraqi mil­i­tary units are based at the sprawl­ing Qa­yara air base, but to the city’s east, men are camped out in aban­doned homes.

Kur­dish forces are sta­tioned to the north and east of Mo­sul, a mostly Sunni city that has been a cen­tre of in­sur­gent ac­tiv­ity and antigov­ern­ment sen­ti­ment since the US-led in­va­sion of Iraq in 2003. Iraqi of­fi­cials have, though, warned that the Mo­sul op­er­a­tion has been rushed be­fore a po­lit­i­cal agree­ment has been set for how the city will be gov­erned af­ter ISIS. A no­to­ri­ous war­lord has been killed in a bomb­ing in the rebel strong­hold of Donetsk, sep­a­ratist of­fi­cials said. The sep­a­ratist Donetsk News Agency said that Arsen Pavlov, also known as Mo­torola, was killed on Sun­day in Donetsk when a bomb ex­ploded in an el­e­va­tor in an apart­ment build­ing where he was stay­ing. He is one of sev­eral prom­i­nent war­lords who have been killed in bomb­ings in the past year which Ukraine watch­ers at­tribute to in­fight­ing among the sep­a­ratists. Pavlov once ad­mit­ted killing 15 pris­on­ers of war. Sep­a­ratist of­fi­cials have blamed pre­vi­ous bomb­ings on Ukrainian sabo­teurs op­er­at­ing in the re­bel­con­trolled ar­eas. The con­flict be­tween sep­a­ratists and Ukrainian gov­ern­ment forces has been rag­ing since April 2014, killing more than 9,600 peo­ple. Rus­sian-born Pavlov, 33, worked in a car wash be­fore he crossed the bor­der and joined the sep­a­ratists in 2014 and went on to be­come one of the most recog­nis­able faces of the Donetsk sep­a­ratist move­ments.

ON THE MOVE: A con­voy drives to­wards a front­line in Khazer, about 30km east of Mo­sul yes­ter­day

KILLED: Arsen Pavlov

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