10/18/2016, 09.52
IRAQ
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Army and Peshmerga advance towards Mosul. UN fears civilians being used as human shields

Offensive continues to wrest the northern Iraqi metropolis from Islamic State. Kurdish militias have taken control of some villages in the Nineveh plain. Pentagon: conquest of the city" will take time". EU warns: the fleeing jihadists could fall back to the shores of Europe.

 

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - On the second day of the offensive, the Iraqi army and security forces are advancing "ahead of schedule" toward Mosul, the city symbol of the "caliphate" in Iraq, rich in oil and second largest in the country .

Pentagon sources  warn , however,  that "it will take time" before the northern Iraqi metropolis is wrested from the Islamic State (IS). Spokesman Peter Cook warns that we must still verify the resistance that will be opposed by jihadists.

Fighting continued overnight; Daesh militiamen [Arabic acronym for IS] have launched more attacks against Iraqi army troops and vehicles. At the moment the battle front is located about 15 km south of the city, under the jihadist control since June 2014.

In the early morning yesterday a coalition of 30 thousand men,  Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga militia, joined by Sunni tribal forces, began an offensive to capture the most important jihadist stronghold in Iraq.

Local sources said that there would still be between 4 thousand and 8 thousand jihadists in town.

The Kurdish Peshmerga have already taken control of several villages in the Nineveh plain  - some of which once predominantly Christian - surround Mosul. They also conquered another stretch of road linking Mosul to Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Kurdish-Iraqi military offensive is supported at the operational level by the US military and intelligence leaders.  Washington is closely following the operations in Iraq, in an attempt to balance a series of failures  - military and diplomatic – in Syria.

In the face of the advance of the anti- Isis coalition, there is increasing concern for the fate of civilians trapped in Mosul, where about 1.5 million live. The United Nations sounded the alarm about the possible use of civilians as human shields. The UN experts also warn of "a jihadi attack with chemical weapons."

The UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Lisa Grande, is convinced they could be facing the "worst possible scenario" but Iraqi forces consider it unlikely. This is linked to events that already occurred in which "mustard gas" was used by Daesh in Iraq.

UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs, Stephen O'Brien, said he was "extremely concerned" about the fate of the inhabitants of Mosul and the "consequences" of the military offensive. The fear is that the  population can remain "trapped" in the fighting and that civilians are used by jihadists to protect themselves from Iraqi army attacks.

Up to one million people, warns the UN expert, may have to abandon their homes. And most of them, as has already happened to Christians and Yazidis in the summer of 2014, coinciding with the rise of IS, would ultimately run away "with only the clothes they are wearing".

Hence the appeal of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which calls for an additional $ 61 million to set up tents, shelters, blankets and items for the winter, fundamental to face the arrival of the cold season.

The conquest of Mosul will not erase the presence of the Islamic State in Iraq, because the jihadists still control most of the territories in the north and east of the country. Moreover, according to some sources the offensive could trigger a mass exodus of jihadists towards the borders of Europe. The warning comes from the EU Security Commissioner for Julian King, that "even a minimum quantity [ of jihadists] poses a serious threat," which must be “dealt with”.

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