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Abdul-Aziz Altaie

Iraq begins countdown to battle for Mosul

Recruits are being trained to retake Mosul [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 13 December, 2014

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Iraq minister confirms arming of tribesmen around city, as reports emerge of training ground for new police force and soldiers, more US-led airstrikes and increased cooperation of Gulf states in Iraqi security.

Iraq's government has said it is preparing to force the Islamic State group for Mosul, with officials listing a series of buildup operations to retake the northern city.

In a televised interview, Iraq's finance minister Hoshyar Zebari said the "clock is ticking" for the IS as he confirmed that the state was arming Sunni tribes in the north of Iraq, a policy revealed by al-Araby al-Jadeed earlier this week.

He added that his government was seeking to rebuild relations with its Gulf neighbours and secure aid to restore security to Iraq.

Training buildup

Sido Senjari, a member of the Mosul provincial council, said a training camp was being prepapred for 1200 policemen and a force to help liberate the city. The location of the camp has not been disclosed. The AFP news agency however this week released a number of pictures showing training exercises by Iraqi recruits in preparation for operation to retake Mosul. 

The provincial council from the northern region of Nineveh also said it could mobilise 20,000 fighters to help liberate Mosul.

The buildup and statements from the Iraq government came amid reports of an increase in airstrikes around Mosul by the US-led coalition. A security source told al-Araby that many IS fighters had been killed in recent days.

The US Senate also passed on Friday a $559.2bn defence budget for 2015, which includes $3.4bn to fund US operations against the IS and another $1.6bn to train and equip Iraqi forces. The bill requires signing into law by the US president, Barack Obama.

The IS group invaded and overran Mosul and the surrounding area in June, forcing a much larger Iraqi army force to flee in disarray and disgrace.

The IS was able to enlist the aid of Sunni tribes rebelling against the Shia-led government in Baghdad as it secured the city. However, some have since rebelled against the IS or refused to pledge allegiance due to its merciless tactics and harsh interpretation of sharia law.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.

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