BAGHDAD Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday it would take three months to eliminate Islamic State, as U.S.-backed forces battle to dislodge the militants from their city stronghold of Mosul. Abadi previously said the city would be retaken by the end of this year but commanders blame the slower pace on the need to protect civilians who have mostly stayed in their homes rather than fleeing as was expected."Conditions indicate that Iraq needs three months to eliminate Daesh (Islamic State)," state TV quoted Abadi as saying.More than two months into the operation, elite Iraqi soldiers have retaken a quarter of Mosul, but entered a planned "operational refit" this month.
A U.S. battlefield commander told Reuters on Monday Iraqi forces would resume their offensive in the coming days, in a new phase of the operation that will see American troops deployed closer to the front line inside the city.
Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State anywhere across the once-vast territory it controlled in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, has been held by the group since its fighters drove the U.S.-trained army out in June 2014.Its fall would probably end Islamic State's ambition to rule over millions of people in a self-styled caliphate, but the fighters could still mount a more traditional insurgency in Iraq, and plot or inspire attacks on the West.
(Reporting by Saif Hameed; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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Updated Date: Dec 27, 2016 22:16:42 IST