The Latest: White House: IS propaganda can’t change reality
BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on the offensive by Iraqi forces and their allies to recapture the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group (all times local):
The White House says it’s aware of the tape released by the leader of the Islamic State group urging followers to keep up the fight for Mosul, but says no propaganda can change the reality that the militants continue to lose ground week after week.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz says the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition has “put these terrorists on a path to lasting defeat.”
Schultz was asked specifically about a recording of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi urging followers to obey orders while remaining resilient and steadfast.
Schultz says two years ago, the IS leader announced a “phony caliphate” from Mosul’s Great Mosque, but “today, he is in hiding unable to show his face in public.”
The United Nations says that some 22,000 people are currently displaced in the fight to take the Iraqi city of Mosul back from the Islamic State group.
Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that about half of those displaced have settled in camps and the remainder in host communities.
He says that so far the U.N. and its humanitarian partners have distributed food, water and medicine to over 25,000 displaced people and vulnerable residents in newly-retaken towns.
The U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, says in a statement that there are an estimated 9,700 children among the displaced who are in urgent need of assistance.
A senior military commander says more than 5,000 civilians have been evacuated from newly-retaken eastern parts of the Islamic State group-held city of Mosul and taken to camps.
The commander of the Joint Military Operation Command, Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati, told reporters on Thursday that civilians have been fleeing Mosul’s Gogjali, al-Karama and al-Samah neighborhoods since Wednesday.
Shaghati says that avoiding civilian deaths and damage to infrastructure are among the main challenges faced by Iraqi troops during operation to retake Mosul, which began on Oct. 17.
Inside Gogjali, security forces fired into the air to disperse civilians who were waiting to receive aid materials distributed by the Ministry of Migration and Displacement.
On Tuesday, Iraqi forces entered the eastern Gogjali and Karama neighborhoods, marking the first time troops set foot in Mosul in two years
Iraqi special forces say they have fired a rocket to destroy an explosives-laden vehicle that sped out of a more central neighborhood of the Islamic State-held city of Mosul.
Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil says the attacker came from the Samah neighborhood of the city, attempting to blow himself up among troops positioned in the Gogjali neighborhood.
Thursday’s attack came as a major offensive by Iraqi forces and their allies to retake Mosul from IS militants is now in its third week.
Fadhil says a second vehicle that emerged from the same area, presumably another suicide car bomber, managed to get away. He says Islamic State fighters are also using explosives-laden drone aircraft, deploying two since the previous night, both of which had been destroyed.
A U.S. organization that monitors militant activity online says the leader of the Islamic State group has released a new message encouraging his followers to keep up the fight for the IS-held city of Mosul in Iraq.
The SITE Intelligence Group says the speech purporting to be from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was released in an audio recording, more than a half hour long, late on Wednesday.
In the recording, al-Baghdadi, rallies fighters especially in Mosul, calling on them to obey orders while remaining resilient and steadfast. He urged others to carry out attacks in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The Islamic State group is fighting to hold Iraq’s second city of Mosul as Iraq forces and allied Kurdish forces advance on the city with U.S.-led coalition support.