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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Wednesday, February 21, 2018

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Mosul offensive against world’s most dreaded terror group ISIS

The biggest battle fought in Iraq since 2003

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MOSUL, Iraq - Close to a week after launching what would become the biggest battle fought in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 - the massive Mosul offensive is pacing ahead. > Big News Net

In a bid to drive out the world’s most dreaded terror group, the Islamic State Militant Group (ISIS) out of its last major city stronghold in Iraq - Mosul, combined forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Iraqi Army, the American-led coalition and other small allied forces, like Christian militias and Turks have been battling hard for over five days. 

The Mosul offensive has however managed to regain strong ground from ISIS militants since the offensive started on Monday. 

Since the start of the massive offensive, the Iraqi army’s media office estimated that 50 villages had been taken from the militants. The office claims that about 5,000 to 6,000 ISIS fighters are dug inside the main parts of Mosul. 

The offensive has so far managed to drive ISIS out of Bartella, a Christian village located north of Qaraqosh in a phased operation, lead by Iraqi special units. 

The Iraqi army troops have recaptured a prominent Christian region to clear the entrances to Mosul, that had been under the ISIS control since 2014.

A statement by the military said, “Iraqi units entered the centre of Qaraqosh, a mainly Christian town about 20 km (13 miles) southeast of Mosul, and were carrying out mop-up operations across the town.”

The military further added that the offensive were now advancing towards a neighbouring Christian village, Karemlash in a bid to seize the village.

Meanwhile, in the south, about 1,000 people suffered due to toxic fumes that arose from a sulphur plant that was set of fire, allegedly by ISIS militants. 

U.S. military officials said that the plant was set ablaze and since then the winds shifted, it sent the smoke south toward Qayara West air field, a base camp for the Mosul offensive. While U.S. soldiers were able to prevent harm using masks, hundreds of Iraqis were affected and rushed to emergency centres after suffering breathing problems. Qusay Hamid Kadhem, an Iraqi commander confirmed the death of two people.

The army tried to advance from the east too, while Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were holding fronts in the east and north.

The interior minister of the Kurdish regional government, Karim Sinjar, said in a statement that the Iraqi forces have advanced to five km from Mosul and there are signs of revolt against the group.

Militants also launched a surprise attack on Kirkuk, which is about 100 miles south-east of Mosul. U.S. military officials believed this was an attempt by the terror group to diverge Iraqi forces from the larger fight to retake Mosul. 

Kirkuk has some strategic importance because of its large oil reserves. ISIS suicide bombers raided the main police headquarters in an attempt to free prisoners and they also tried to get into the governor’s office, attacking several security personnel. 

Another group of front fighters made their way to a power plant situated inside the city, killing 16 employees. The streets of Kirkuk also turned into a battlefield as ISIS militants positioned themselves on top of several buildings.   

Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend, who is a Commander Combined Joint Task Force and Operation Inherent Resolve, described them as being very resilient, calling them a challenging foe who is adaptable, creative and cunning.

“They saw people’s heads off on TV, they drown people and video it. They burn people alive in cages, they crucified people and they drive over people on the streets with bulldozers. Are they using human shields? Yes they are,” he said.   

Overall, hospital sources believed that 50 people were killed and 80 others injured in the Kirkuk clashes.

Sorry Turkey, the Iraqis will handle this

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter made a surprise visit to Baghdad, where he is said to have met Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to analyse and define the progress made by the campaign over the last seven days. 

After the meeting, Carter said in a statement, “The campaign is proceeding according to plan and the schedule that we’ve had.”

While Carter reportedly voiced his support for a possible role by Turkey, the Iraqi prime minister is said to have rejected any Turkish participation in the campaign.

Abadi said, “I know that the Turks want to participate, we tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle. If help is needed, we will ask for it from Turkey or from other regional countries.”

Currently, over 5,000 U.S. personnel are based in Iraq and part of the offensive, with over a 100 personnel fighting as part of Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, advising commanders and ensuring coalition attacks meet their desired results. 

Massive humanitarian relief operation

The Mosul offensive is proving to be a historic battle, that experts believe would require a massive humanitarian relief operation. 

According to the United Nations, about 1.5 million residents are still inside the city and the body fears that in the worst-case scenario, up to a million residents could be uprooted. 

The UN aid agencies have estimated that the current spate of attacks has forced about 6,000 people to flee their homes.

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