Iraqi forces preparing to liberate Mosul from IS

Baghdad, Feb 12 (IANS) New Iraqi army units have arrived in the semi-autonomous northern region of Kurdistan preparing to free the city of Mosul, the second-largest Iraqi city, from the Islamic State, a military officer said on Thursday.

Troops, weapons and equipment have arrived in Makhmour area, just south of Mosul, for an offensive to liberate Nineveh province where Mosul is the capital, according to Major General Najim al-Jubouri, commander of Free Nineveh Operations Command.

The troops have moved to northern Iraq on orders by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who is also the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces, Jubouri said, adding that they have prepared 13 safe routes for the civilians in the IS-held city of Mosul once the offensive begins.

The operations to free Mosul and other IS-held parts of Nineveh province will be carried out by the Iraqi army, Kurdish security forces known as Peshmerga, and US-led coalition, with participation of paramilitary units from local volunteers, including Sunni Arab tribesmen, the commander said.

Iraqi officials and military commanders have frequently said that the battle to free Mosul, which was captured by IS militants in June 2014, is very soon, while media reports quoted US military officials as saying that the preparations need months to be fulfilled.

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