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Key dates in battle for Mosul

 

Baghdad (AFP)

Iraqi government forces launched a major offensive to recapture the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group on October 17, 2016.

Here are key dates:

– Battle for Mosul begins –

– October 17: Iraqi forces launch an offensive to drive IS out of Mosul, where the jihadists declared an Islamic “caliphate” in June 2014.

IS overran Mosul and swathes of other territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014, sweeping aside security forces ill-prepared to face the assault.

Tens of thousands of troops from army, police and counter-terrorism units are thrown into the long-awaited counter-attack with air and ground support from the US-led coalition.

By the end of October, the army has recaptured the Christian town of Qaraqosh, 15 kilometres (10 miles) from Mosul. Dozens of other nearby towns are retaken within two weeks.

– Entering Mosul –

– November 1: The army says it has entered Mosul itself for the first time since June 2014.

– November 3: IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi breaks a year-long silence to urge his fighters to defend Mosul to the death, and the advance of Iraqi forces begins to slow down.

– November 8: Kurdish peshmerga fighters say they have reached Bashiqa, a dozen kilometres (about eight miles) north of Mosul.

– November 13: Iraq says it has recaptured Nimrud, an ancient city southeast of Mosul.

– November 23: Shiite-dominated paramilitary units known as Hashed al-Shaabi say they have cut IS supply lines between Mosul and Raqa, the self-declared jihadist capital 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the west in Syria.

– Change of tactics –

– December 29: Government troops end a two-week pause by launching the second phase of their offensive on east Mosul with increased coalition support and improved coordination between fighting units.

– January 4: A US-led coalition spokesman indicates the number of Western advisers in the battle has doubled to around 450.

– Tigris River bank –

– January 8: Iraqi units reach the Tigris River that divides Mosul and take up positions near one of the city’s five bridges, which have all been destroyed.

– January 14: Elite forces from the Counter-Terrorism Service take control of the sprawling campus of Mosul University.

-Getting there –

– January 18: The head of special forces announces the liberation of the east bank, two days after Iraqi forces reach the iconic Nabi Yunus shrine, also known as “Jonah’s tomb” and which IS destroyed in 2014.

Sporadic fighting continues for four more days however, and the western side of Mosul, home to the Old City and traditional jihadists’ bastions, is expected to offer much stiffer resistance.

– January 24: The Joint Operations Command coordinating the fight against IS says that the east has been “fully liberated”, after pockets of IS fighters in the north are cleared.

– Battle for western Mosul –

– January 24: The UN warns that 750,000 civilians in western Mosul are “at extreme risk” as Iraqi forces prepare to attack IS fighters in that part of the city.

In February it adds that up to a quarter of a million Iraqis could flee their homes. That figure comes on top of the 200,000 who have fled since October 17. Close to 50,000 of them have since returned to their homes.

– February 19: Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces the launch of operations to retake the western side of Mosul. The initial phase of that offensive is expected to focus on Mosul airport, just south of the city.

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