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Recapture of Mosul ‘possible’ before next US administration

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While the fight to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State is going to be difficult, it is “possible” it could be complete before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday. Some 100,000 Iraqi government troops, Kurdish security forces and mainly Shi’ite militiamen are participating in the assault on Mosul that began on Oct. 17, with air and ground support from a US-led coalition, reported The Indian Express.
The capture of Mosul, the largest city under control of Islamic State, is seen as crucial toward dismantling the caliphate which the militants declared over parts of the Iraq and Syria in 2014. “That is certainly possible and again it is going to be a tough fight,” Carter said when asked if the recapture would be complete before January 20, when Trump starts his presidency.

Islamic State fighters retreating in the face of a seven-week Iraqi military assault on their Mosul stronghold have hit back in the last two days, exploiting cloudy skies which hampered U.S.-led air support and highlighting the fragile army gains, reported Iraqi News.
In a series of counter-attacks since Friday night, the jihadist fighters struck elite Iraqi troops spearheading the offensive in eastern Mosul, and attacked security forces to the south and west of the city.
A senior officer in the Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) said its troops battled on Sunday to clear Islamic State fighters from one eastern Mosul district, using heavy machine guns and rockets.
“Since early morning our troops have been clearing out around 40 Islamic State militants,” said Lt. Gen Abdul Wahhab al-Saidi, as heavy gunfire rattled behind him. “It’s an ongoing operation and we have killed most of the militants.”
“People are trapped in the neighborhood and some have been killed,” said one resident fleeing into an area controlled by Iraqi forces. “They threatened us to try to force us to leave with them, but we refused,” he said referring to militants.
Hundreds of residents in another neighbourhood retaken from Islamic State queued for cooking gas canisters, some squabbling among themselves for a place in the line, others carting away their cylinders on their backs or in wheelbarrows and carts.
Iraqi commanders say they have killed at least 1,000 Islamic State fighters. A government adviser estimated the jihadist group now had about 4,000 fighters in Mosul.

Nearly 2,000 soldiers and hundreds of civilians were killed in Iraq in November, the UN said on Thursday, in a "staggering" spike in deaths coinciding with operations to retake the Islamic State-held city of Mosul.

The figure increased threefold from October, when tens of thousands of troops launched an assault to retake the Islamic State (IS) group's last major Iraqi bastion of Mosul, reported Middle East Eye.
According to the UN mission in Iraq's monthly tally, 1,959 Iraqi forces were killed last month and at least 450 others wounded.
That figure is just under half the number of American soldiers killed after the US invaded the country in 2003.
The toll includes members of the army, police who are engaged in combat, the Kurdish peshmerga, interior ministry forces and pro-government paramilitaries.
The UN statement also said at least 926 civilians were killed, bringing to 2,885 the number of Iraqis killed in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict last month.
"The casualty figures are staggering, with civilians accounting for a significant number of the victims," the top UN envoy in Iraq, Jan Kubis, said.

Iraqi forces said Saturday they liberated a new district in Mosul and four more villages northeast of the city, after days of dust-filled skies that hampered ground forces providing coordinates for air strikes against ISIS targets, reported Rudaw.
The elite Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (ICT) has liberated the district of al-Kafaat 3 in northeastern Mosul, the Iraqi War Media Office announced.
It also said that the villages of Abu Jarbuah, Qaratapa, al Darawish and Gura Khayraban were liberated.
A sandstorm hit the Mosul area late last week and continued to Saturday.
Better weather conditions on Sunday enabled Iraqi forces to help guide at least four air strikes on ISIS positions by coalition forces in the northeastern districts of Mosul, a Rudaw reporter embedded with Iraqi forces said.
He reported a number of Iraqi helicopters seen flying around the same districts.
Iraqi security forces have liberated more than 23 eastern districts of Mosul since the launch of the Mosul operation about 50 days ago.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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