Iraq: Mosul Offensive Begins with Shirqat

The Iraqi offensive on Mosul began on Tuesday by attacking the town of Shirqat, 100km south of Mosul, because it is dubbed as a strategic supply line for the army in its bid to take over Mosul.

Joint Operations Command spokesman Yahya Rasool said the troops are “making good progress” in taking over the “important” town that has been held by the Islamic State since 2014. The US-led air campaign has carried out airstrikes on the town ahead of the ground offensive and Colonel John Dorrian, spokesman of the coalition, said “clearing the area makes sure that their supply lines are protected.”

The battle for control of Shirqat is deemed critical because tens of thousands of civilians are living there and in surrounding villages. Officials claim that there is a humanitarian disaster going on in the town due to shortages of basic commodities. The Mayor of Shirqat, Ali Dawdah, is hopeful that the offensive would soon end because government forces are less than 3km away from the town center. Their progress has been however slowed by the extremist group’s roadside bombs, mortars and snipers.

Militia groups are helping government forces to battle militia groups. One of the Shia militia groups, Hashed al-Shaabi, said the operation is destined to “finish expelling those terrorist gangsters from usurped Iraqi land.”

Mosul is the de-facto capital of the Islamic State in Iraq and the battle to retake it is expected to be fatal. IS has been stationed in the area since 2014. Observers think that the group has had enough time to set up a fortress that would not easily bow down to an attack.

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