Posted on October 19, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Mosul, Security
Islamic State militants. Photo: IS media
HEWLÊR-Erbil, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Islamic State has 5,000 to 6,000 fighters defending the city of Mosul against an offensive by Iraqi forces, the head of Iraq’s special forces Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati said on Wednesday.
iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday announced the start of an offensive on the northern city, the last major stronghold of the militants in Iraq, with the backing of a U.S.-led coalition.
“Intelligence information indicates that there are 5,000 to 6,000 Daesh [Islamic State] fighters,” Shaghati told a news conference near Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan region east of Mosul.
Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati did not say how many of them are foreigners.
Shaghati has called on local fighters with the Islamic State group inside Mosul to lay down their weapons as a wide-scale operation is underway to retake the city.
IS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, when it swept across much of northern and western Iraq in the summer of 2014. The group has suffered a string of defeats over the past year, and Mosul is its last major urban bastion in Iraq.
The push to retake Mosul is the biggest military operation in Iraq since U.S. troops withdrew in 2011.
Iraqi and Kurdish authorities are setting up a refugee camp with some 5,000 tents east of Mosul as they brace for an influx of people fleeing a massive offensive to retake the Islamic State-held city.
Project manager Prezzo Mikael said on Wednesday that the camp is nearly complete, with running water, electricity and food.
Iraqi authorities have called on people to remain in their homes, but are also preparing humanitarian corridors for them to escape the fighting.