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Islamic State in Mosul seemingly shaken up by offensive, airstrikes

By Andrew V. Pestano
Islamic State in Mosul seemingly shaken up by offensive, airstrikes
Kurdish Peshmerga forces, shown here in 2014, near Mosul, Iraq, said they are willing to help the Iraqi army launch an offensive to retake Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city with a population of about 2 million. File photo by Mohammed al Jumaily/UPI | License Photo

BAGHDAD, March 29 (UPI) -- As the Iraqi offensive prepares to launch a full-scale assault to retake the city of Mosul, the Islamic State has reacted by executing members and removing local leaders from power.

Dozens of IS militants, including leaders, have fled from the militant Islamist organization and from Mosul, ARA News reported. The Islamic State in Mosul is reportedly in a state of alert, particularly as U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against IS targets have increased ahead of a ground offensive by the Iraqi army -- potentially supported by Kurdish Peshmerga troops and a Shiite-dominated paramilitary force.

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The Islamic State has also executed at least 12 relatives of IS militants who previously worked in the group's intelligence agency in Mosul.

The Iraqi military began its offensive to retake Mosul by isolating the city from surrounding areas, which has displaced more than 500 families south of Mosul.

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Fadel al-Gharawi said the displacement of families as the Mosul offensive continues could potentially create a humanitarian disaster in the province.

Since U.S. coalition began airstrikes against IS targets in August 2014, nearly 7,500 airstrikes have been conducted in Iraq and nearly 3,700 have been launched in Syria. The Islamic State -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL -- in June 2014 seized control of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city with a population of about 2 million.

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Col. Naji Bedaroni, a Peshmerga commander, said that although his fighters receive help from airstrikes, his troops are not supported with U.S. military equipment like the Iraqi army receives.

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"The operation is very weak. It's not strong enough. I believe that if the Peshmerga had the equipment [the Iraqis] have, we could liberate this village in three to four hours, not three to four days," Bedaroni told PBS News , adding that the Iraqi government needs to make a political decision on whether it will decide to ask the Peshmerga to join in the formal ground assault in Mosul.

"That area that is being targeted for this operation is not a Kurdish area. We are just guarding our bunkers. If we get orders, for sure we can do that, but, until now, we have not gotten any orders," Bedaroni said.

The offensive was previously suspended due to bad weather. Officials said they hope to completely seize the land within a year, but it is unclear if Iraqi forces have the ability to do so.

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