U.S.: Up to 900 Islamic State militants killed since Mosul offensive start

MOSUL, Iraq,  Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said up to 900 Islamic State militants have been killed since the start of the offensive to recapture Mosul.

Up to 900 Islamic State militants have been killed since the start of the offensive to recapture Mosul, a U.S. official said Thursday. In this image, Kurdish Peshmerga forces take positions as they attack Islamic State in Dohuk, north of Mosul, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 20. Photo by Shvan Harki/UPI | License Photo

A coalition of about 100,000 forces, led by Iraqi security forces — joined by the Kurdish Peshmerga and supported U.S.-led international anti-Islamic State coalition — began the ground offensive to capture Iraq’s second-largest city on Oct. 17.

Up to 5,000 IS militants were believed to have been in Mosul before the offensive began, while an additional up to 2,000 were believed to reside near the city’s outskirts. At least 57 Iraqi soldiers have been killed and up to 30 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters died, officials said.

On Thursday, Votel said losses for the Islamic State have been between 800 and 900 members.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the anti-Islamic State Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, said coalition forceshave conducted more than 2,100 air, artillery and mortar attacks.

“This relentless campaign of strikes has removed hundreds of fighters, weapons and key leaders from the battlefield in front of the Iraqi advance,” Townsend said.

Mosul is considered one of the most important battles in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, as it is considered the militant Islamist group’s last major stronghold in the country. President Barack Obama and Iraqi officials have said they expect Mosul to be retaken by the Iraqi government by the end of the year.

In Syria, the Islamic State’s primary stronghold of Raqqa will soon be contested in a similar way to Mosul, as U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter on Tuesday said Western-backed troops are preparing an offensive to take the Syrian stronghold away from IS control.

By Andrew V. Pestano