Iraq to launch major ground offensive against IS group

Safin Hamed, AFP | Iraqi troops train in preparation to recapture the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, January 10, 2015

A top US official announced Sunday that Iraqi troops will launch a ground offensive within weeks to take back swathes of the country seized by Islamic State group, while a suicide attack killed at least 12 in Baghdad on Monday.


“There will be a major counter offensive on the ground in Iraq,” John Allen, the chief envoy for the international coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group, said in an interview with Jordan’s official Petra news agency.

“In the weeks ahead, when the Iraqi forces begin the ground campaign to take back Iraq, the coalition will provide major firepower associated with that,” he added, stressing that the Iraqis would lead the offensive.

Allen dismissed accusations that there has been a delay in the supply of US weapons and training to Iraqi troops on the frontline of the conflict, telling the news agency: “The United States is doing all it can to deliver its support as quickly as possible.”

The US has been leading an aerial campaign against the jihadists, who have taken control over large parts of Iraq and Syria and have imposed a brutal form of Islam in the territory.

On Monday, an attack in northern Baghdad killed at least 12 people and wounded more than two dozen others after a suicide bomber set off his explosives-laden vest among commuters in Baghdad’s bustling Adan Square, Iraqi officials said.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack in a mainly Shiite area of the city.

Winning back territory

Jordan, part of the coalition, announced Sunday that it had conducted dozens of air strikes on militant targets after the group burned one of its air force pilots to death and released a gruesome video of the execution.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the assault was beginning to win back territory and deprive the jihadists of key funds.

There have been 2,000 air strikes on the Islamic State group since the coalition’s formation in August, Kerry told the Munich Security Conference on Sunday.

The air war had helped to retake some 700 square kilometres of territory, or “one-fifth of the area they had in their control”, he said.

The top US diplomat did not specify whether the regained territory was in Iraq or Syria.

But Kerry added the coalition had “deprived the militants of the use of 200 oil and gas facilities... disrupted their command structure... squeezed its finance and dispersed its personnel.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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