- Title: U.S. coalition should begin Raqqa offensive while Mosul ongoing - France
- Date: 6th November 2016
- Summary: ALI RASH, SOUTHEAST OF MOSUL, IRAQ (NOVEMBER 5, 2016) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF IRAQI ARMY TANKS NEAR A SAND BERM VARIOUS OF SOLDIERS CHARGING SHELLS
- Embargoed: 21st November 2016 13:20
- Keywords: Jean-Yves Le Drian France Syria Raqqa Islamic State coalition Mosul Iraq
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE; ALI RASH, SOUTHEAST OF MOSUL, IRAQ
- City: PARIS, FRANCE; ALI RASH, SOUTHEAST OF MOSUL, IRAQ
- Country: France
- Topics: Defence,Government/Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA00157B2PFR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: France said on Sunday (November 6) the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State should begin the battle on the group's Syrian bastion Raqqa while the offensive on their remaining Iraqi stronghold in the northern city of Mosul is underway, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
"At some point, I'm convinced of it, it will be a necessity," he told Europe 1 radio.
Iraqi troops and accompanying security forces advancing towards Mosul battled on Saturday (November 5) for the last town left between them and the Islamic State stronghold to the north, which is already under assault from special forces fighting inside the city's eastern districts.
Iraqi soldiers in Ali Rash were seen preparing the shells and munition for the forthcoming advance.
Recapturing Mosul would effectively crush the Iraqi half of a self-proclaimed caliphate declared by Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from the pulpit of a Mosul mosque two years ago. His Islamist group also controls large parts of east Syria.
Le Drian, whose country is the second-biggest contributor to the coalition, added that the battle on Mosul would be long and complicated given that Islamic State was embedding itself within the local population.
The U.S.-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab armed groups, first announced on Sunday that a campaign to retake Raqqa would begin within hours, with U.S. forces providing air cover. Soon afterwards, it said that the operation, called Euphrates Anger, had begun.
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, said last month that the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State wanted to move urgently to isolate Raqqa because of concerns about the group using the city as a base to plan and launch attacks against targets abroad.
France has also pushed for simultaneous action on both fronts. President Francois Hollande said last month there was evidence that Islamic State fighters were fleeing to Raqqa, and that everything must be done to stop them regrouping there.
"It will automatically be local forces that will liberate Raqqa even if French forces, U.S. forces, the coalition contribute with air strikes to dismantle Daesh (Islamic State) in Mosul and in Raqqa," Le Drian said using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
Since it was formed in early 2015, the SDF has seized large swathes of territory along the Syria-Turkey border from Islamic State and pushed the jihadist group back to within 30 km (18 miles) of Raqqa.
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