ISIS ON THE RUN Jihadists flee Mosul in face of massive military operation

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On the brink of collapse ISIS jihadists have resorted to launching futile suicide missions against the 30,000 troops from the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga and a Shia paramilitary force who are mercilessly pounding its positions from three sides.

British RAF Typhoons, Tornados and Reaper drones earlier undertook a series of devastating raids over the northern Iraqi city, destroying ISIS’ ammunition stockpiles, artillery pieces and mortar positions and putting the terrorists “on the back foot”, according to Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.

The assault was initially predicted to last several months, but ISIS is reportedly already fleeing the city, which is where leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi unveiled his so-called caliphate in June 2014.

A convoy of around 1,500 jihadi fighters, including senior commanders and their family members, was seen travelling to Syria last week, according to local media reports.

Around 8,000 ISIS militants are thought to remain in Mosul and are making use of an intricate network of tunnels underneath the city to launch guerilla-style attacks on the allied troops.

However, many are believed to be locals forced to fight against their will, meaning they could defect once the death cult’s resistance becomes futile.

ISIS’ news agency, al-Aamaq, announced the depraved terror group had begun launching sickening suicide attacks against Kurdish forces out of desperation as their Western-backed enemies continue to outnumber and outgun them.

Kurdish troops reportedly opened fire on two vehicles laden with bombs that were speeding towards the Peshmerga fighters’ positions.

The bullets halted one in its tracks and caused the other to crash before exploding, killing the driver.

Mosul is Daesh’s chemical weapons stronghold and it is feared that as all becomes lost for the terror group they may resort to firing mustard gas or chlorine agents onto the oncoming troops, potentially causing horrific injuries to soldiers’ nervous and respiratory systems.

Sir Michael is convinced the current assault marks a significant turning point in the battle against terror in the Middle East.

He said: “The beginning of the encirclement of Mosul today is a big moment in our efforts to rid Iraq of Daesh. Mosul is a large and complex city and operations there will be tough but with Coalition support Iraqi forces will prevail.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The start of Iraqi operations to retake the city of Mosul marks another step forward towards clearing Daesh from Iraq. 

“After two years of brutal rule, the people of Mosul can start to have hope for a better future.

“This will be the greatest challenge that Iraq’s Security Forces have yet encountered – they are up to that challenge. The UK, as part of the Global Coalition, is committed to continuing to provide the government of Iraq with military, humanitarian and stabilisation support.”

But there are concerns for the welfare of the 1.5 million resident of Mosul as the fighting rages on.

Stephen O’Brien, UN deputy Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, said: “I am extremely concerned for the safety of up to 1.5 million people living in Mosul who may be impacted by military operations to retake the city from ISIL.”

He added: “Families are at extreme risk of being caught in cross-fire or targeted by snipers”.

ISIS’ retreat from Mosul comes as Turkey-backed Syrian rebels took control of nine areas previously riddled with Daesh fighters, including Dabiq, a stronghold where ISIS had vowed to fight a final, apocalyptic battle with the West.

The victory means Turkey’s border with Syria is now largely secure and it signals an end to sporadic rocket attacks by ISIS militants.

A Turkish government spokesperson confirmed “many” ISIS fighters had been killed and said Turkey-backed forces continue to advance towards the Daesh fortress of al-Bab.