French warplanes bombed an Islamic State communications hub near Mosul in northern Iraq overnight, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday.
“Last night we bombed a Daesh telecommunications center, a propaganda center, near Mosul,” Le Drian told BFMTV, using an Arabic acronym for the ISIS jihadists.
“We have struck seven times since Monday,” Le Drian said of the French bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. “Daesh is pulling back in Iraq” where it has lost control of the cities of Sinjar and Ramadi, Le Drian said.
ISIS fighters seized Raqa in Syria in early 2014 and declared it the capital of their so-called caliphate. In June the same year, the jihadists seized Mosul.
Another major Iraqi city, Ramadi, fell in May 2015 but local Iraqi forces — backed by coalition air support and troop training — recaptured the town at the end of last month in what was seen as a major blow for the jihadists.
Sinjar was recaptured in November with the help of Kurdish forces. Since coalition air strikes began in August 2014, the Pentagon estimates ISIS has lost about 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq, and about 10 percent of the land it claimed in Syria.
“The battle for Mosul will have to be taken on one day,” Le Drian said, adding that it would be “much more complicated. Iraqis and Kurds must be sufficiently war-hardened to take on this battle.”
Defence ministers from the seven countries taking part in the anti-ISIS coalition – France, the United States, Australia, Germany, Italy, Britain and the Netherlands – will meet in Paris on January 20 to discuss their military strategy.
“We are going to see how to increase our efforts in Iraq and Syria,” said Le Drian. Pentagon chief Ashton Carter said Wednesday that recapturing Raqa and Mosul would be key to the ongoing fight against the jihadists. “Raqa and Mosul constitute ISIS’s military, political, economic, and ideological centers of gravity,” Carter said.
“That’s why our campaign plan’s map has got big arrows pointing at both Mosul and Raqa. We will begin by collapsing ISIL’s control over both of these cities and then engage in elimination operations throughout other territories ISIS holds in Iraq and Syria,” he added, without giving a time frame.