Iraqi forces close to worldwide airport in western Mosul

Iraqi forces close to worldwide airport in western Mosul

Iraqi forces close to worldwide airport in western Mosul

US -backed Iraqi forces launched a large-scale military operation today to dislodge Islamic State militants from the western half of Mosul, the latest phase in a four-month-old offensive to retake Iraq's second largest city.

IS militants are essentially under siege in western Mosul, along with an estimated 650,000 civilians as they were forced out of the eastern part of the city in the first phase of an offensive that concluded last month after 100 days of fighting.

Mattis also clarified on Monday that "w$3 e're not in Iraq to seize anybody's oil", despite repeated statements made by Trump that the US might use the resource grab as a strategy to defeat ISIS.

"We are racing against the clock to prepare emergency sites south of Mosul to receive displaced families", the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, told The Media Line. To reach their target, the Iraqi forces will have to clear the outer suburb of Albu Saif and take the adjacent high ground.

The start of the air-and-ground offensive was marked by ground units pushing into a belt of villages outside Mosul and smoke rising into the sky as fighter jets from a US-led coalition bombed militant positions southwest of Mosul.

The strike followed reports that the militants are dug in among civilians on the western side of Mosul and storing weapons in hospitals, schools, mosques and churches as a tactic to avoid targeting.

- January 14: Elite forces from the Counter-Terrorism Service take control of the sprawling campus of Mosul University.

Iraq’s National Security Service is trying to capture suicide bombers and destroy weapons factoriesAHMAD AL-RUBAYE  AFP  Getty Images
Iraq’s National Security Service is trying to capture suicide bombers and destroy weapons factoriesAHMAD AL-RUBAYE AFP Getty Images

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who arrived in Baghdad on Monday on an unannounced visit, declined to offer details about U.S. battle plans when speaking to reporters on Sunday.

Beyond the humanitarian concerns, there is fear that the coalition that is working to defeat ISIS could fall apart, as different groups have competing interests.

It is hard to assess the situation in western Mosul as independent media do not have access to the part of the city that is under Islamic State control. It later retracted that statement and fighting continues in some parts of the east.

Internally-relocated Iraqis, who left their homes due to clashes between Iraqi forces and Daesh (IS) terrorists, leave a refugee camp to return to the east side of Mosul after Iraq forces retook villages there.

The Commander of the US-led coalition forces, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, hailed the Iraqi forces in a statement as an "increasingly capable, formidable, and professional force".

There are more than 5,100 United States forces in Iraq, and about 500 in Syria. The latest advance on Mosul comes at a time of rising tension between the Iraqi government and its principal military partner, the United States, over President Donald Trump's administration's decision to halt immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iraq.

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