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Iraq Launches Offensive To Recapture Mosul From ‘Islamic State’

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Iraq Launches Offensive To Recapture Mosul From ‘Islamic State’

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Kurdish forces prepare assault against ISIS in Mosul

By Babak Dehghanpisheh and Maher Chmaytelli

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi government forces, with air and ground support from the U.S.-led coalition, launched an offensive on Monday to drive Islamic State from the city of Mosul, the militants’ last major stronghold in the country.

The assault on the northern city was the biggest operation mounted by the Iraqi military since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011, and the United States predicted Islamic State would suffer “a lasting defeat.”

As the assault got underway, a Reuters correspondent saw helicopters overhead releasing flares and heard explosions on the city’s eastern front, where Kurdish fighters moved forward to take outlying villages.

Some 30,000 troops from the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga militia and Sunni tribal fighters were expected to take part in the offensive to drive an estimated 4,000 to 8,000 Islamic State militants from Mosul.

“I announce today the start of the heroic operations to free you from the terror and the oppression of Daesh,” Prime Minister Haider Abadi said in a speech on state TV, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

“We will meet soon on the ground of Mosul to celebrate liberation and your salvation,” he said, surrounded by the armed forces’ top commanders.

Qatar-based al-Jazeera television aired video of what it said was a bombardment of Mosul that started after Abadi’s speech, showing rockets and bursts of tracer bullets across the night sky and loud sounds of gunfire.

The assault on Mosul, a city of 1.5 million people, is the biggest undertaken by the Iraqi military since 2011 and could be one of the biggest military operations in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

“This operation to regain control of Iraq’s second-largest city will likely continue for weeks, possibly longer,” said the commander of the coalition, U.S. Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, in a statement.

Mosul is the largest city that Islamic State controls and its last major stronghold in Iraq.

“This is a decisive moment in the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat,” U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.

“We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from ISIL’s hatred and brutality.”

In 2014, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed from Mosul’s Grand Mosque a “caliphate” in Iraq and neighboring Syria, meaning an Islamic state with himself its absolute ruler.

Islamic State has been retreating since the end of last year in Iraq, where it is confronting U.S-backed government and Kurdish forces as well as Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’ite militias.

The Iraqi Kurdish military command said 4,000 Peshmerga were taking part in an operation to clear several villages held by Islamic State on the eastern front, in an attack coordinated with a push by Iraqi army units from the southern front.

`”We are the real Muslims, Daesh are not Muslims, no religion does what they did,” said a young Kurdish fighter in battle dress as he scanned the plain east if Mosul from his position on the heights of Mount Zerlik.

As he spoke a Humvee drove by with the word Rojava, or Syria’s Kurdistan, painted on the protection plate of the machine gun turret.

“This is all Kurdistan,” said Major Shiban Saleh, one of the fighters onboard. “When we’re done here, we will chase them to Raqqa or wherever they go,” he added referring to the largest city under control of the militants in Syria.

He said about 450 Syrian Peshermga fighters were involved in the offensive east of Mosul, which aims to take back nine villages during the day.

Speaking in the early hours of Monday, Abadi sought to allay fears that the operation would turn into sectarian bloodletting, saying that only the Iraqi army and police would be allowed to enter the mainly Sunni city.

Local Sunni politicians and regional Sunni-majority states including Turkey and Saudi Arabia cautioned that letting Shi’ite militias take part in assault could spark sectarian violence.

“The forces that lead the liberation operation are the brave Iraqi army with the police forces,” Abadi said. “They will enter the city and no one else,” he added, asking the population to cooperate with the government’s forces.

The Iraqi army dropped tens of thousands of leaflets over Mosul before dawn on Sunday, warning residents that the offensive was imminent. The leaflets carried several messages, one of them assuring the population that advancing army units and air strikes “will not target civilians” and another telling them to avoid known locations of Islamic State militants.

Reflecting authorities’ concerns over a mass exodus that would complicate the offensive and worsen the humanitarian situation in the area, the leaflets told residents “to stay at home and not to believe rumors spread by Daesh” that could cause panic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday he hoped the United States and its allies would do their best to avoid civilian casualties in an attack on Mosul.

The United Nations last week said it was bracing for the world’s biggest and most complex humanitarian effort in the battle for the city, which could make up to 1 million people homeless and see civilians used as human shields or even gassed.

There are already more than 3 million people displaced in Iraq as a result of conflicts involving Islamic State. Medicine is in short supply in Mosul, and food prices have risen sharply.

U.N. Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien in a statement called for protection of Mosul’s civilians, urging all parties to “ensure they have access to the assistance they are entitled to and deserve.”

(With additional reporting by Ahmed Rasheed in Baghdad and Michael Georgy in Erbil; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Simon Cameron-Moore)

IMAGE: As the assault got underway, a Reuters correspondent saw helicopters overhead releasing flares and heard explosions on the city’s eastern front, where Kurdish fighters moved forward to take outlying villages.

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16 Comments

  1. 蒂欧娜 October 17, 2016

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    Reply
  2. dbtheonly October 17, 2016

    Trump supporters are trying to suggest that this is somehow incompatible with President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. It somehow justifies Sander’s supporters branding Hillary as a warmonger.

    Peace requires law enforcement against those that would do violence. Having a police force does not make my Mayor a warmonger. Having and using our military against ISIL does not make my present or future President a warmonger. Bad guys need to be stopped. Period.

    Reply
    1. charleo1 October 17, 2016

      That would be the RW damned if he does policy, that dovetails nicely with their ever popular damned if he doesn’t alternative.

      1. dbtheonly October 17, 2016

        My favorite is still Newt Gingrich during the early days of the Libyan revolt. One night he’s on Fox saying President Obama isn’t doing enough and ought to establish a “no-fly zone”. President Obama does so the next day. So that night, Newt is back on Fox decrying the dangerous expansion of presidential power. Needless to say, no one on Fox pointed out what he’d said just the night before.

        I agree that President Obama, or any Democrat, has no win, on any issue, with the RWMO.

        1. charleo1 October 17, 2016

          A lot of what we’re seeing today that instigated the Republican strategy in 2009, to oppose, obstruct, and impede by any means,
          including shutting the government down for the first time ever, as a political tact. Began with the Newt Gingrich led House that came in in 1994.

          1. dbtheonly October 17, 2016

            The Republicans shut the government down twice while Bill Clinton was President.

            I’d start it a few years earlier when Gingrich fabricated a “scandal” and took down Jim Wright.

            Minor quibbles.

          2. charleo1 October 18, 2016

            Good memory!

          3. dbtheonly October 18, 2016

            Thank you, old men normally forget, but what you young whippersnappers read about in the history books, I read in the newspaper.

          4. charleo1 October 18, 2016

            We are Brothers in this, you and I. Most of those young whippersnappers have never heard of old Newt. How much of what they are seeing today would make so much more sense to them if they had? “Old men,” can tell a lot, because they’ve seen a lot. We’ve live it.

  3. johninPCFL October 17, 2016

    “will not target civilians”: Don’t be surprised when DJT criticizes them for alerting the enemy to adopt civilian clothing. Since he didn’t plan it, no operation that’s ever been proposed can withstand DJT review.
    Remember, by his own admission, he’s the only one that can do anything. He knows more than the generals, and he’s said so, so that’s it.

    Reply
  4. Jon October 17, 2016

    Why didn’t they listen to the man who says he loves war and knows more about ISIS than U.S. Generals? He told them during the 2nd Debate that they should never tell anyone when the assault to free Mosul would begin. This is from the man who has a secret foolproof plan to quickly and completely eliminate ISIS. Why didn’t they ask him for his foolproof plan? Are they not serious about wanting to defeat ISIS in Mosul? Is it because he was a draft-dodger? Is it part of an ISIS-led conspiracy against Donald J Trump? The voters deserve answers to these questions and others such as whatever happened to Trump’s tax returns.

    Reply
    1. charleo1 October 17, 2016

      Right! “Just nail the door shut, and set the barn on fire!” Or.. “See if the sand glows after a nuclear blast.” Or this classic by RW sociopath Tom Tancredo: “The next terrorist attack anywhere, bomb Mecca!” These are but a few of the statements I have heard over the past few years out of the same radical nitwits, that for 8 years refused to talk to Iran, preferring threats of war to diplomacy. That lied to the World, and cleared the weapons inspectors out of Iraq in order to invade..over weapons. There is not a doubt in my mind a President Trump would have 300,000 troops camped out illegally in Western Iraq within 6 months of his inauguration. Poised for an Iranian invasion, that I guarantee would make Bush’s blunder into Iraq look like a walk in the park by comparison. But sure, it’s all about those emails, and lock her up! What a “crooked, crooked Hillary Clinton said in her paid speeches. Or how the DNC treated Burnie Sanders, for Christ’s sake! Just 4 overall points on one poll this morning, they say is all that separates the rest us and the rest of the World from these homegrown American lunatics.

      1. Jon October 17, 2016

        It is unbelievable. I could never have dreamed that we would have a raving maniac this close to the presidency. We have always had some homegrown American lunatics but they have never had a candidate that reflects their values and beliefs the way Trump does. No matter what any of the polls say, the sane people must keep working through November 8th to get out the vote and take no chances at all. Further, with Trump already telling his thugs that the election is rigged and not legitimate, it is very important to not only defeat him but to beat him so bad that no one can buy his lie about the election being rigged.

  5. charleo1 October 17, 2016

    The RW politics: Obama should not have backed away from the red line, or pulled all the troops out of Iraq. Joe Scarborough, (Morning Joe) “Syria will be a black mark on the Obama legacy. Children are dying.” The Wing Nut Party: (or 40% of the U.S. electorate) “ISIS was founded by Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton!” Donald Trump (R) Nominee for POTUS. “There will be no major commitment of U.S. ground forces involved in the Syrian conflict under a Clinton Administration.” Hillary Clinton (D) Nominee for POTUS.
    “Aleppo?” “What is Aleppo?” Gary Johnson (L) Nominee for POTUS. Good Luck America!

    Reply
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