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Liberating Mosul

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced "victory" over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in the city of Mosul. "The commander in chief of the armed forces Haider al-Abadi arrived in the liberated city of Mosul and congratulated the heroic fighters and the Iraqi people for the great victory," said a statement from his office on 09 July 2017. Photographs released by his office showed the premier dressed in a black military uniform and cap, shaking hands with police and army officers as he arrived in the city. The victory announcement came after state TV reported that troops had reached the Tigris riverside and raised the Iraqi flag there.

The Independent reported 21 December 2017 a "civilian casualty rate" in Mosul "nearly 10 times higher" than the official one. Between 9,000 and 11,000 people were killed in the nine-month battle to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Isis group. Iraqi or coalition forces were responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths from air strikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds between October 2016 and the fall of Isis in July 2017.

"As coalition and Iraqi government forces increased their pace, civilians were dying in ever higher numbers at the hands of their liberators." A precise casualty count has been thwarted by a number of factors, including that many bodies remain under the rubble and that, as the Independent notes, "The Americans say they do not have the resources to send a team into Mosul."

Of the nearly 10,000 deaths the Associated Press found, around a third of the casualties died in bombardment by the US-led coalition or Iraqi forces. Another third were killed in Isis group militants' final frenzy of violence. And it could not be determined which side was responsible for the deaths of the remainder. "Kurdish officials have previously told The Independent the true scale of civilian casualties could be as high as 40,000, but the official death toll remains implausibly low"

Mosul under Saddam was an ethnically mixed city. Mosul was predominantly Kurdish but has a substantial non-Kurdish minority of Iraqis sympathetic to the Saddam Hussein regime. The Kurds want to incorporate thid area on the edge of their Kurdistan region, something fiercely opposed by the central government in Baghdad. A military wffort to drive out the Ilsmaic State forces would probably create a vast ourflow of refugees, seeking to avoid the ravages of house to house fighting. By the time the Islamic State forces were evicted, what was left of Mosul would be damaged real estate and not many people. It would be ripe for re-population by each of the groups eager to claim it as their own. The prize is to the swift, so all sides will race to liberate the city ahead of the others.

The city of Mosul, a largely Sunni city, remained under Islamic State control as of early 2016, held by an estimated 2,000 Islamic State fighters. A large part of Mosul's population of more than 1 million remained in the city after it was overrun by Islamic State in June 2014 and were banned from leaving by the hardline militants.

Daesh seized persons to silence those who criticized it in the areas under its control. In July 2015 Daesh captured 350 Mosul residents, the majority of whom were military, police, former army personnel, and clerics. According to media statements from the governor of Ninewa, Daesh captured those who expressed opposition to the organizations abuses of Mosul residents. There was no further information available about those taken/captured, but on July 27, local media reported that researchers found more than 120 bodies shot and killed, allegedly by Daesh.

Daesh also reportedly killed and abducted religious leaders who failed to support the terrorist group. According to UNAMI, on September 13, Daesh executed three imams in Hammam Ali District of Mosul because they reportedly did not praise Daesh in their sermons. On June 22, Daesh abducted six Sunni clerics in Mosul for failing to follow Daesh instructions forbidding evening Ramadan prayers; the whereabouts of the clerics remained unknown at the end of 2015.

In 2016 Iraqi military embarked on Operation Conquest, an offensive to push the Islamic State group out of Mosul. The operation began at the end of March 2016, and was expected to take many months.

In February 2015, an official with the US Central Command said an Iraqi and Kurdish military force of about 20,000 to 25,000 troops was being prepared to retake the city in a campaign likely to begin in April or May. US officials since backtracked from those comments, although a campaign to retake Mosul is seen as a critical step in the campaign against IS.

A US Central Command official said February 19, 2015 an Iraqi and Kurdish military force was being prepared to recapture the city of Mosul from Islamic State fighters, likely in April or May 2015. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the force would amount to about 20,000 to 25,000 troops, while Mosul is currently being held by an estimated 2,000 Islamic State fighters. The official also said if the Iraqi forces are not ready at that time, the coalition has not closed the door on launching the Mosul attack later in the year.

Five Iraqi Army brigades were expected to participate in the attack force, according to the official, along with three smaller brigades for a reserve force. He said three Peshmerga brigades would help contain Islamic State fighters from the north and west of the city, and a so-called Mosul fighting force comprised of mostly former Mosul police would also participate.

"I don't know where the American official got this information ... they absolutely do not have knowledge on this issue," Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi said to Reuters 22 February 2015 of the announced timetable. "A military official should not reveal the timing of an offensive," he added. "The battle for Mosul starts when preparations are complete, and selecting the time is up to Iraqi military commanders."

Khaled al-Obeidi, the Iraqi defense minister, stated on 04 March 2015 that the most challenging operation, driving the militants from Mosul, Iraqs second-largest city, would be planned, timed and executed by Iraqis.

By December 2015 the much-anticipated counter-offensive by Iraqi forces to retake Mosul from Islamic State had been repeatedly postponed because the Iraqi forces were tied down in fighting elsewhere.

Despite the estimated 10:1 fighting ratio, Weiss said the battle for Mosul would be a very nasty and bloody campaign that would cause many casualties on both sides. Islamic State militants have controlled the city for many months, giving them plenty of time to lay all kinds of traps and bury explosive devices.

After success in the December 2015 offensive to retake Ramadi, Abadi went on Iraqi television to declare 2016 will be the year Islamic State will be driven out of Iraq. He said the countrys second largest city is the armys next target. "We are coming to liberate Mosul and it will be the fatal final blow to Daesh [Islamic State]."

The US sought to help Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces retake Mosul in northern Iraq and also assist Syrian rebel forces to oust IS fighters in northern Syria and in their self-proclaimed capital in Raqqa. The deployment of 200 commandos in January 2016 represents a new U.S. commitment to the campaign against IS, in addition to the hundreds of combat fighter jet and drone attacks the US conducted for more than a year, even as President Barack Obama rejected massive deployment of ground troops.

In December 2015 and January 2016, US President Barack Obama and Defense Secretry Ash Carter laid out 10 strategic goals - some of them geographical, some of them functional - that needed to occur before Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and the Syrian counter-IS forces could retake Raqqah and Mosul, Islamic States de-facto capital in Syria and largest stronghold in Iraq. The recapturing of Hit, Rupta and Ramadi in Iraq were key steps toward splitting the Iraq and Syria battlefields. Establishing a staging base in Makhmour has been considered a crucial step in encircling Mosul.

On the Syrian side, Shaddadi, located on the road from Raqqah to Mosul, also was deemed critical so that Islamic States core was severed in half, Carter said, stifling movement of people and supplies between the two cities. The envelopment of Manbij by U.S.-trained opposition forces had taken a hub for Islamic State foreign fighters. Starting the train and equip program within northeast Syria was another of the 10 plays.

The much anticipated campaign to recapture Mosul is unlikely to happen in 2016, the Kurdistan region's deputy prime minister said 07 January 2016, dampening hopes the militants could be driven from the country in 2016. Qubad Talabani said he doubted the country's armed forces would be ready for an operation to drive the Sunni insurgents out of their de facto capital in Iraq before 2017. "I don't think the Mosul offensive could happen this year," Talabani told Reuters in an interview. "I don't think the Iraqi armed forces are ready and I don't think the (U.S.-led) coalition is confident in the ability of everyone to get ready in time for an offensive this year."

Iraq's government is planning a new all-out campaign against "Islamic State" (IS), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said 15 February 2016. He said the goal was to recapture Iraq's second city of Mosul, which has been occupied by IS since June 2014. "That's what we intend to do," Abadi said. "We started the plans last week. We sent the first of our forces to Mosul. They are there now. And we're planning, probably in the coming month, to start a full military operation to retake the city."

An impending battle to take back the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State (IS) forces "will be a bloodbath," a top Kurdish counterterrorism official told VOA March 21, 2016. For two years they (IS militants) have been digging tunnels, for two years they've been planting IEDs, booby-traps, everything, warned Polad Jangi. They have kept the population there, some people have fled, but I think 80 percent of the people are still probably there, and they are going to use these people as human shields. How are you going to bomb a building with an ISIS fighter there, but a family in there also? asked Jangi, using another acronym for the group.

Mosul is mainly Sunni, although there is also a Kurdish pocket. Peshmerga commanders have told VOA that while they will fight to protect what they consider Kurdish land and fellow Kurds, they are less eager to extend their stay in traditionally Sunni areas. You can't send Peshmerga forces into an Arab area to take the area and then stay there afterwards, said Jangi. They may be happy for you to come and help them take it back, but eventually you're going to have to give it back to those people.

On March 24, 2016 Iraqi forces, backed by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, launched what they describe as the first step to take the Islamic State militant group's stronghold city of Mosul. Forces from two Iraqi brigades from Iraq's US-trained 15th Division began the fight against six IS-held villages southeast of Mosul. Also involved were members of Sunni tribes, which many Peshmerga commanders have said are crucial to hold the traditionally Sunni areas. Peshmerga forces were not actively participating in this particular offensive because it was taking place in traditionally Sunni Arab areas, but that they had provided Iraqi forces with intelligence on the villages.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter confirmed 25 March 2016 that Iraqi security forces had launched an offensive to retake Mosul. The second-largest Iraqi city is controlled by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants. The US military provided artillery support to Iraqi forces, Carter said. He added that the offensive is now in its early stages. Momentum in the anti-Islamic State campaign was on USs side, according to Carter. At a congressional hearing on 22 March 2016, the Defense Secretary gave no indication that the Iraqis were ready for a full-scale counteroffensive.

More than 4,000 Iraqis from the northern city of Mosul fled to Syria since the beginning of May 2016, the UN has said, adding it is expecting up to 50,000 people to leave the ISIL-held city and cross the border. A military operation to recapture Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group could produce the largest civilian displacement anywhere in the world this year, according to the United Nations. "Even by our most conservative estimates, this could be the largest population movement anywhere in the world this year," Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told Al Jazeera.

Mosul is Iraq's second-largest city, and urban warfare is no easy task. Ramadi has a population of around 200,000 compared with Mosul's estimated population of 1.8 million (albeit many of them left the city for safer refuge). Recent polling carried out by Iraqi polling firm IIACSS conducted shed light on this. In Mosul, 74 percent of Sunni respondents say they do not want to be liberated by the Iraqi army on its own. Of the 120 Sunni respondents in Mosul, 100 percent do not want to be liberated by Shiite militias or the Kurds. Liberating the city and kicking out ISIL (also known as ISIS) will be the easier part. The harder challenge will be finding a political settlement that allows the local Sunni inhabitants to address their legitimate political grievances with the Shia central government in Baghdad.

An eventual assault on Mosul could result in a displacement of upward of 600,000 people, the UNCHR warned 14 June 2016. Civilians living southeast of the city have been walking through minefields at night to escape the fighting as Iraqi security forces edge closer to the city. There were reports that some refugees had been trapped, severely injured or killed in minefields on their way to safety.

Iraqi forces opened a new front on 18 June 2016, preparing to squeeze Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) out of Mosul. Counter terrorist forces and two army divisions with the support of the US-led coalition moved in the direction of an airfield whose capture was considered to be key for taking Mosul. Advancing around 20 kilometers (over 10 miles), Iraqi forces liberated two villages west of Baiji that had been occupied since October 2015. The advance came a day after a government compound in the center of the besieged city of Fallujah was recaptured following a four-week long operation.

The US completed its initial goal of training 12 brigades for the Mosul fight, which commanders say is the number needed for the massive battle. The plan to envelop Mosul in the south required two prongs: Makhmour to the southeast and Qayyarah to the southwest. A small number of US forces conducted a brief site survey at the airbase, but they did not remain onsite. The Iraqi security forces' push to retake Qayyarah was Iraqs largest armor maneuver since the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait, which officials say displayed a level of sophistication not yet seen in the war. At the same time, two Peshmerga brigades equipped (and some even being paid for) by the US are completing the encirclement from the north. Those two prongs are as important as the prongs coming from the south.

One Iraqi militia leader told VOA in late July 2016 that perhaps as many as 8,000 IS fighters had been assembled to protect Mosul, many of them Iraqis who are familiar with the terrain. We can say that they are less than 10,000, said Atheel Alnujaifi, a former governor of Nineveh province.

In many ways our campaign is now ahead of where we thought it would be at this time, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy Brett McGurk said 19 July 2016, ahead of two meetings to focus on the future of Iraq and the fight against IS. "Mosul is now upon us, he added.

Aid agencies, aware of the recent massive failure to help families fleeing the fierce fighting in Fallujah, are strengthening their plans for the expected military operations on the IS stronghold of Mosul city. The humanitarian fallout is bound to be catastrophic unless funding and resources are prioritized to help up to 1.2 million civilians, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the International Rescue Committee warned in a statement.

The UN refugee agency said 23 August 2016 it was preparing for a massive dislocation of people from Mosul. In recent months, the agency reports about 213,000 people have fled their homes to different parts of Iraq. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said he feared displacement may be about to get dramatically worse as government military action turns toward Mosul. Mosul, you probably do not need much reminding, it is Iraqs second largest city," he said. "The humanitarian impact of a military offensive there is expected to be enormous. Up to 1.2 million people could be affected.

US military officials admit the number of fighters left to protect Mosul, a force once thought to be possibly 12,000-strong, may have been reduced by half. Somewhere between 5,000 or so fighters are inside Mosul, former Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Colonel Chris Garver told Pentagon reporters.

By mid-October 2016 Iraqi troops were gearing up to retake the city of Mosul from Islamic State, in an assault expected to begin later in the month. Officials of the U.S.-led coalition assisting Iraq said up to 45,000 troops will be needed to keep Mosul secure after it is recaptured. The Iraqi security team protecting Mosul will include about 8,000 police from Ninevah Province and 10,000 to 12,000 members of tribal forces from the surrounding area. Police and other local forces will be assigned to protect Mosul, while Iraqi units from other parts of the country will guard areas outside the city. Twelve "brigades" of Iraqi forces, each made up of 800 to 1,600 troops, are preparing for the assault. Iraqi ground forces, backed by coalition airstrikes, will take on between 3,000 and 5,000 Islamic State fighters entrenched in the city.

About 30,000 government troops and about 4,000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters participated in the 15 October 2016 offensive to retake Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, from Islamic State. The US military helped the mission by providing training, advice and air support. Analysts as well as politicians express no doubt Mosul will be recaptured, but some feared for the future of the city in a country riddled with sectarian divisions. The plan included support from as many as 200 U.S. special operations forces, some positioned just behind the front lines, working in an advise and assist role. Some helped to call in airstrikes.

On 01 November 2016 Iraqi forces sidy they had moved closer to taking control of the jihadist-held city of Mosul. Extremists reportedly continued to use civilians as human shields as they put up fierce resistance. Iraqi troops were poised to start retaking the city from "Islamic State" (IS) militants who have held the city since the summer of 2014, a top commander said. "Now is the beginning of the true liberation of the city of Mosul," the commander of the elite Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service, Staff General Taleb Sheghati al-Khenani, told Iraqiya state television. "Our final goal is arriving at Mosul and liberating the city," he said.

Iraqi forces, alongside Kurdish peshmerga, Sunni tribesmen and Shiite militias, converged on Mosul on multiple fronts in an offensive to drive IS from the city that began in mid-October 2-16. The operation was expected to take weeks or even months.

By December 2016 elite Iraqi troops of the "Golden Division", were the only brigades to have entered Mosul from the east. Iraqi army, federal police and Kurdish Peshmerga units surrounded the city to the north and south. Shi'ite militias were trying to complete the encirclement from the west.

Iraqi forces had failed to mount a concerted attack on Mosul. As ISOF troops advanced doggedly in the east of Mosul, the Ninth Armoured Division was slowly moving through the Intisar neighborhood from the southeast. But the 16th Division failed to breach Mosul from the north, and the 15th Division was still several kilometers from the city limits on the south side of the Tigris, which dissects the city.

Iraqi security forces took control of eastern Mosul from IS in Janaury 2017, more than 100 days after the offensive to retake the city began.

US-backed Iraqi forces began a military offensive aimed at dislodging Islamic State militants from the western part of Mosul on 18 February 2017, the latest phase in a four-month old operation to retake the country's second largest city. "Our forces are beginning the liberation of the citizens from the terror of Daesh," Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. "We announce the start of a new phase in the operation." He urged security forces to respect human rights as they continue the military operation. Iraqi forces retook several villages as part of the new offensive and are now aiming for the Mosul airport.

About 100,000 Iraqi soldiers, security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, and mainly Shia paramilitary forces were participating in the Mosul campaign that began on 17 October 2016.

US-backed Iraqi troops launched a renewed push towards the Mosul city center, which has been held by Islamic State militants. Earlier UN data showed that 750,000 people may be trapped in the city. By 05 March 2017 Iraqi forces were advancing from the south and the southwest towards the old center of the city, Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool, spokesman for the joint operations command, told state-run television. Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service units had pushed through the Tal al-Ruman and the Somood districts in the southwest, Rasool added. Soldiers from the rapid response team were also progressing through the Dawasa and Danadan districts, a few hundred meters from government buildings in the besieged city.

Displaced Iraqis fled their homes on March 24, 2017 as Iraqi forces battle Daesh in western Mosul. Iraqi forces were preparing a fresh push against Daesh using new tactics that would include additional sniper units, but operations to drive the militants out of their last stronghold in the country were on hold, military officials said. Families streamed out of the northern Iraqi city during the lull in fighting. They were part of an exodus of people fleeing in their thousands each day, heading for cold, crowded camps or to stay with relatives.

The US-backed operation to drive Daesh out of Mosul was now in its sixth month. The entire eastern side and about half of the west is now under Iraqi control. But advances stuttered in the first two weeks of March as fighting enters the narrow-alleyed Old City. Daesh put up resistance using car bombs, snipers and mortar fire against forces and residents.

The US-led coalition air strike is thought to have hit and detonated a bomb-laden vehicle. Nearly two hundred bodies had been retrieved from the rubble after the coalition air strike on 17 March 2017 in the Iraqi city of Mosul. Dozens of residents were buried in collapsed buildings after an air strike against Daesh triggered a massive explosion. The exact cause of the collapses was not clear, but a local lawmaker and two local residents said the air strike may have detonated a truck filled with explosives. Rescuers were still recovering bodies, civil defence agency officials and locals said on 23 March 2017.



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