Christian militia joins anti-ISIS offensive in Mosul

(REUTERS/Azad Lashkari)Peshmerga forces advance in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016.

The Christian militia known as the Nineveh Plain Forces has announced that it will be participating in the offensive against ISIS in Mosul.

In the statement released on Monday, the group acknowledged the other military forces such as the Kurdish Peshmarga and the Iraqi military for launching the operation that will lead to the liberation of Nineveh province from ISIS.

"The Nineveh Plain Forces (NPF), representing our Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people are honored to participate in these operations to liberate all of our occupied territories, and to push out the terrorist gangs of ISIS," the militia declared.

The NPF is one of several Christian militias that are aimed at regaining control of Nineveh. Its fighters, most of which are Assyrian Christians, received training from the American military but it is mainly supported by the Peshmarga.

"We have sworn to fight relentlessly, side by side with the allied forces, in order to free all of our cities and villages in the Nineveh Plain and Mosul area. We promise our people that we will honor this commitment," the statement continued.

The operation to reclaim Mosul began when the Iraqi-led coalition began to move towards the city on Monday. The coalition is reportedly composed of 54,000 Iraqi Security Forces and 40,000 Peshmarga. Other paramilitary units involved in the operation include 9,000 Sunnis and 5,000 fighters from minorities such as Christians, Turkmen and Yazidis.

U.S. military officials expect around 5,000 ISIS militants to meet the coalition in battle. The Peshmarga military commander told CNN that the whole operation could take up to two months.

It is believed that there are still 700,000 people living in Mosul. Around 900 people had reportedly fled to Syria before the battle. There are concerns that ISIS might use the civilians as shields in the confrontations with the Iraqi forces.

Lise Grande, the United Nation's humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, expects that as many as 200,000 people might need shelter in the coming weeks due to the operation.


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