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LIVE UPDATES: Day 2 of the battle for Mosul

Iraqi forces deploy in the area of al-Shurah, some 45 kilometers south of Mosul, as they advance toward the city to retake it from the Takfiri Daesh terrorists, October 17, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Tuesday marks the second day of military operations by the Iraqi army, volunteer Shia and Sunni fighters as well as Kurdish Peshmerga forces to liberate the city of Mosul, the last stronghold of Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Iraq, which they overran in June 2014. Operations to free the city have been the subject of long planning, and the large-scale offensives are targeting the city from three different directions. Below is a series of live updates on the second day of the battle for Mosul.

(To read about military developments on the first day of the operations, see here.)

— US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the battle for Mosul will be a tough one, adding that he was sure the offensive would drive Daesh terrorists out of the city. "Mosul will be a difficult fight. There will be advances and there will be setbacks," he said, adding that he expected "significant displacement" of civilians from Mosul.

— Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari says in a press conference with the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, in Brussels that liberation of Mosul needs special effort due to the city’s area, inhabitants, and religious diversity. He added that Iraqi forces observe all human rights norms in their battle to retake Mosul.

— Iraqi forces raise the country’s flag over governorate building of Hamdaniyah town east of Mosul.

— The Syrian army has accused the so-called U.S.-led coalition of planning to help Daesh terrorist to flee Mosul across the Syrian border, saying in a statement that "any attempt to cross the border is an attack on the sovereignty of Syria ... and would be dealt with all forces available."

 Daesh terrorists have transferred residents of 16 villages in Nineveh province to the center of Mosul in order to use them as human shield.

Iraqi fighter jets have targeted a convoy of Daesh terrorists as they were fleeing Mosul. A military source told Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network on Tuesday that the Iraqi military aircraft had struck 30 vehicles the previous night in an area close to the border with Syria. The source added that the slain terrorists, mostly non-Arabs, were escaping Mosul toward Raqqah, which is Daesh’s so-called headquarters in Syria.

This photo taken on the second day of Iraqi forces’ operation to free Mosul shows an Iraqi tank on the outskirts of the city.

Fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units have shot and killed a senior Daesh operative, identified as Khalaf Salem, in a hilly area on the outskirts of Mosul as he was fleeing the pro-government forces.

Salem was reportedly in charge of executions and “public treasury” in Mosul.

Popular Mobilization Units fighters have also killed a Daesh militant commander, identified as Abd Davood Fahd, in an area on the southern outskirts of Mosul.

 Hissam Abaar, a member of the Nineveh Provincial Council, has said that Kurdish Peshmerga forces are only 12 kilometers way from Mosul’s downtown and are making advances through Khazir region east of the city.

Army troops have advanced into the Christian-majority town of Qaraqosh, east of Mosul, and raised the national Iraqi flag over a building.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command has also announced that four vehicles belonging to Daesh militants were destroyed in the Nayef Village south of Mosul. Several terrorists were killed as a result.

A security source has said Iraqi F-16 fighter jets have pounded a Daesh workshop used for making bombs and rigging cars with explosives in the al-Tamim neighborhood of Mosul.

Iraqi forces hold a position in the area of al-Shurah, south of Mosul, as they advance toward the city to retake it from Daesh, October 17, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

Iraqi fighter jets have also targeted a boat carrying several female Daesh operatives in the artificial man-made lake behind Badush Dam, located 16 kilometers northwest of Mosul.

The women, among them a high-profile terrorist identified as Um Hafsa al-Omari, were using the boat to flee away from the area.

Iraq’s state-run al-Iraqiya television network also reported on Tuesday that government forces had wrested control over 56 oil wells in the Ain al-Jahash region, located more than 60 kilometers south of Mosul, following fierce clashes with Daesh militants.

 Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has announced that up to 200 square kilometers were cleared in the first phase of the battle to liberate Mosul, thanks to close coordination between the Iraqi army and Peshmerga forces.

Kurdish forces take up a position overlooking Daesh-held villages surrounding Mosul, in Khazir, about 30 kilometers east of Mosul, Iraq, October 17, 2016. (Photo by AP)

 Meanwhile, a Peshmerga commander has said the Kurdish forces have brought their Mosul operations to a standstill after the recapture of a number of villages to the east of the city.

Colonel Khathar Sheikhan said on Tuesday that his troops have accomplished their objectives, and “are just holding positions” in the Khazir region.

Camps in Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region are preparing for an influx of more internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Mosul. Thousands of IDPs are fleeing to the Debaga camp on the outskirts of Erbil following the launch of the Mosul operations.

“The more civilians will feel protected inside Mosul, the less they will be displaced. And for those who feel they have to go because it is dangerous, they have to be treated with dignity, with respect in full respect of their rights,” Filippo Grandi, the United Nations (UN)’s High Commissioner for Refugees, said after visiting the camp and learning of the refugees’ situation.

Tensions around the Turkish Embassy

Meanwhile, thousands of angry demonstrators have marched on the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad to condemn Ankara’s military presence in northern Iraq. The military deployment by Turkey inside Iraq has come without permission by Iraqi officials and has become a source of real tension between Ankara and Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces later moved to close all roads leading to the diplomatic mission.

Iraqi supporters of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rally in front of the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad to protest against the continued presence of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, October 18, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

Prominent Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had called on his followers late on Monday to converge outside the Turkish Embassy in a show of support for the Iraqi army’s operations to retake and voice their outrage over the deployment of the Turkish forces at the Bashiqa military camp, located roughly 12 kilometers northeast of the militant-held city.

Battles elsewhere

Iraqi government forces are also making headways in operations against Daesh extremists elsewhere in the country.

Iraqi warplanes struck militant hideouts in al-Harariyat region near the oil-rich city of Baiji, leaving 40 terrorists dead.

Iraq’s Joint Operations Command said government forces had intercepted and targeted a Daesh surveillance drone as it was flying in the skies over al-Khanoukah district in the country’s northern province of Salahuddin.

Elsewhere, in the town of al-Shirqat, located 100 kilometers south of Mosul, at least 50 Daesh members were killed as Iraqi army soldiers engaged them in two separate offensives.

Daesh has been ravaging the northern and western parts of Iraq since June 2014.

France to host intl. talks on Mosul Thursday

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault says his country will host an international meeting on the future of Mosul on Thursday.

“We must anticipate, plan for the 'day after', and the stabilization of Mosul after the military battle,” Ayrault said Tuesday, adding, “If we want to fight effectively against terrorism it is essential to take this city.”

Meanwhile, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the battle to retake Mosul from Daesh could take “months.”

“It could be a long battle, it's not a blitzkrieg.... It's a lengthy affair (lasting) several weeks, maybe months," he told reporters in Paris.

IOM warns against human shields in Mosul

The International Organization for Migration's (IOM) warned on Tuesday that Daesh terrorists may use tens of thousands of Mosul residents as human shields to prevent further advances by the government forces.

“Tens of thousands of people may be forcibly expelled, they will be getting trapped between fighting lines under siege, they may be even held as human shields,” IOM’s Iraq chief, Thomas Weiss, said, adding, “We also fear, and there has been some evidence that ISIL (an alternative name for Daesh) might be using chemical weapons. Children, the elderly, disabled, will be particularly vulnerable.”

‘EU should brace for return of home-grown extremists’

Moreover, the European Union (EU)’s security commissioner, Julian King, has warned that many European extremists fighting for Daesh in Mosul may return to their home countries once the Iraqi city is retaken by Baghdad.

“The retaking of Daesh’s northern Iraq stronghold, Mosul, may lead to the return to Europe of violent Daesh fighters,” King told German national daily newspaper Die Welt.

He said the return of even a handful of terrorists from Mosul would pose a “serious threat that we must prepare ourselves for.”

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