AL UDEID AIR BASE , Qatar, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Increased airstrikes hit Islamic State positions in and around Mosul, Iraq, as ground troops moved in for an assault, officials said Friday.
Mosul, 250 miles north of the capital of Baghdad, is the only remaining city in Iraq under IS control. A concerted effort to retake the city, which once had a population of 2.5 million inhabitants but has been reduced to about 600,000 since IS took control two years ago, is about to begin. About 30,000 troops are involved.
Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the name given to the U.S.-led coalition working to vanquish IS in Iraq and Syria, said its planes conducted over 50 airstrikes around Mosul in the past two weeks. A CJTR-OIR statement Friday said "five strikes engaged an ISIL [Islamic State] tactical unit and a chemical weapons facility; destroyed three tunnel entrances, a tunnel, a rocket rail, a vehicle, and a trench; and damaged a trench network."
"We have been intensifying our efforts in and around Mosul," said Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the coalition. Earlier this week he said the Mosul campaign is of an "order of magnitude larger than the liberation battles in cities such as Ramadi, Fallujah and Sharqat."
He added that the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations are working with the Iraqi government to establish 20 sites for residents of Mosul expected to flee the city when fighting starts.