US military 'begins shelling' Daesh in Iraq's Mosul

Iraq is preparing to liberate Mosul from Daesh with support from the United States.

Courtesy of: AA
Courtesy of: AA

Iraqi forces, backed by the US military, await the order to launch a full-scale operation to liberate Mosul.

Updated Jan 4, 2017

The US military has deployed to the east of Mosul in Iraq, and has started shelling Daesh targets as part of an operation to retake the city, a Peshmerga commander said on Saturday.

Peshmerga Commander Omer Huseyin, from Camp Bashiqa in northern Iraq, said that American howitzers, which were deployed some 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) away from the Mosul city center, were hitting Daesh targets.

Smoke rises as US artillery units bomb Daesh positions with howitzers in the east of Mosul during an operation to retake the Iraqi city from Daesh. Source: AA

Huseyin said US-led coalition warplanes also hit Daesh positions.

"The Daesh terrorists started burning tires to block the view of the warplanes after international coalition forces struck the area," he added.

"Daesh terrorists also started burning the petroleum filled in their ditches, which they have dug around the city."

But a Pentagon official who wanted to remain anonymous said that "a full scale offensive hasn't started yet." The official did not confirm if the operation had begun at all.

On the other hand, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said that reports on social media and the internet that the Mosul operation began were "erroneous."

The CENTCOM official who also wanted to remain anonymous said the liberation of Mosul was an "Iraqi military plan" and would start whenever Baghdad wanted to kick it off.

However, Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani had said that preparations were complete for retaking Mosul from Daesh.

"I announce that all preparations to retake Mosul have been completed. An agreement has been made between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces in this context," said Barzani on the Kurdish Regional Government website on Saturday.

Tanks, artillery and missile launchers head to the outskirts of Mosul as Iraqi forces build-up to oust Daesh from the city.

In mid-2014, Daesh captured the northern city of Mosul and overran vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq. The terrorist group remains in control of several parts of the country, including Mosul.

The Iraqi army and its allies are now gradually advancing on Mosul, which officials in Baghdad have vowed to "liberate" by year’s end.

With a pre-war population of around two million, Mosul is at least five times bigger than any other city Daesh has controlled.

A successful operation would effectively destroy the Iraqi half of the Daesh 'state' claimed by the militants when they swept through northern Iraq in 2014.

But it is not without risks.

The group has a history of using civilians as human shields to defend territory.

The United Nations is warning the assault could uproot a million people, unleashing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

TRTWorld and agencies