Iraqi soldiers have been deployed in preparation for the battle for Mosul. AP photo.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Islamic State (ISIS) group is using the large civilian population in Mosul as “human shields” and that is the largest hurdle for Iraqi forces reportedly preparing to liberate Iraq’s second-largest city from the militants, according to the Iraqi Army commander in charge of reported preparations for a large-scale offensive.
“The biggest hurdle facing Iraqi forces is the people inside Mosul who are being used as human shields by the organization,” said Lt.-Gen. Najim al-Jibouri, who commands the Nineveh Operations, set up for the liberation of Mosul, which now has an estimated 1 million population.
Jibouri said Wednesday that ISIS has 6,000 to 8,000 militants in Mosul, which is in Iraq’s Nineveh province.
It is believed that the Mosul offensive will involve the Iraqi Army and its allied Shiite militias, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and air support from the US-led coalition.
Iraq, Kurdish and US officials have all warned that the battle for the city will be tough, likely to result I many casualties and refugees.
“We are waiting for the green light from top Iraqi military officials” to start the offensive, Jibouri said, adding that the timing “depends on the advance of the Iraqi soldiers.”
To get the Mosul population on board Iraqi planes have dropped leaflets on the city several times, instructing civilians to cooperate when the offensive begins.
Early last month, Iraq's defense minister Khaled al-Obaidi who visited the Makhmour told Rudaw that the Mosul operation will come sooner than ISIS may expect.
"The operation to liberate Nineveh will be sooner and harsher than what ISIS expects. It will be done through new techniques and experience that Iraqi forces have gained in battle."
Mosul has been ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq since June 2014 when its militants attacked from Syria and routed out the Iraqi army and government institutions.