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Battle for Mosul: 60% of IS rocket launchers 'destroyed' Open in fullscreen

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Battle for Mosul: 60% of IS rocket launchers 'destroyed'

The battle is expected to be the toughest yet in the fight against IS [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 17 October, 2016

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A large number of Islamic State rocket launchers and landmines around Mosul were destroyed on the first day of a military operation to retake the group's last stronghold in Iraq.

Nearly 60 percent of the Islamic State group's rocket launchers and landmines around Mosul have been destroyed on the first day of a much-anticipated offensive to retake the militant group's final stronghold in Iraq.

"The first few hours of the offensive saw significant advancement of the attacking forces amid weak resistance by IS," military sources from the Nineveh liberation operations room told The New Arab.

"The advancement mostly took place in open areas north and south of the city."

According to Major General Najm al-Jabouri, who leads the Iraqi army's operations, several villages and towns outside Mosul have been liberated.

"The results of the first day are excellent," he said.

According to The New Arab's Iraq correspondent, the son of a senior Kurdish official has been injured in battles east of the city.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the military operation to dislodge IS from the city where its self-proclaimed "caliphate" was declared two years ago late on Sunday.

"Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh," Abadi said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

See in pictures: Mosul offensive begins 

Iraqi forces have been closing in on Mosul in recent weeks but the battle launched early on Monday is expected to be the toughest yet in the fight against IS.

The Pentagon described the long-awaited operation as a "decisive moment" in the fight against IS but the US-led coalition's top commander warned it could last weeks or more.

 

Some 30,000 federal forces including Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Iraqi special forces and Sunni tribal fighters are leading the offensive, backed by a 60-nation US-led coalition.

With an estimated 3,000 to 4,500 thought to be in the city and surrounding area, IS fighters will seek to use hit-and-run tactics, ambushes, snipers, bombs, berms and trenches to slow down and bleed Iraqi forces.

Peshmerga forces have already thwarted an attempted suicide attack by five cars rigged with explosives on the northern and eastern fronts.

Meanwhile, Turkey's insistence its troops take part in the battle, with 2,000 troops stationed outside of Mosul, has been rejected by Baghdad.

On Monday morning, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it was unthinkable that Ankara would stay on the sidelines.

"We will be in the operation and we will be at the table," Erdogan said in a televised speech.

"Our brothers are there and our relatives are there. It is out of the question that we are not involved."

Humanitarian concerns

The beginning of the assault also saw aid groups voice fears for the hundreds of thousands of civilians remaining in the city, with IS expected to use them as human shields.

Read also: Battle for Mosul will be bloody, leaving unfinished business 

The United Nations and other aid organisations warned that a huge number of civilians were in immediate danger as the operation got under way.

"I am extremely concerned for the safety of up to 1.5 million people," UN deputy Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Stephen O'Brien said.

"Depending on the intensity and scope of the fighting, as many as one million people may be forced to flee their homes in a worst-case scenario," O'Brien said in a statement.

Save The Children said "the lives of more than half a million children now hang in the balance".

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