Kurdish and Iraqi government forces have launched an offensive to capture the Islamic State’s (Daesh) northern Iraqi stronghold of Mosul with air and ground support.
Daesh fighters, thought to number between 4,000 and 8,000, are embedded within their final major stronghold within Iraq. Surrounding the city, are reported to be 30,000 combatants made up Peshmerga military of Iraqi Kurdistan, Iraq’s government forces of Shia militias and Sunni tribes, with additional air and ground support from the U.S.-led coalition, Reuters reports.
Fears over a humanitarian crisis are growing over concerns of a mass exodus that would further complicate the offensive on Mosul. The Iraqi army distributed tens of thousands of leaflets throughout the city on Sunday warning residents the offensive was imminent. The leaflets specified the airstrikes on the city “will not target civilians” and advised residents to avoid known locations of Daesh fighters. Last week, the United Nations stated it was preparing for the world’s most complex humanitarian effort to date, estimating that the assault upon Mosul could result in up to 1 million people being made homeless, with civilians potentially being used as human shields.
According to an October 2015 report by the Soufan Group, there are currently thought to be between 6,000 and 7,000 Tunisians engaged with Daesh in Iraq and Syria. There are currently no accurate statistics as to how many might be inside Mosul.