January 22, 2016 / 8:34 AM / in 3 years

Iraq to start Mosul offensive against IS in first half of 2016: Minister

Iraq's Defence Minister Khaled al-Obeidi speaks during a news conference in Baghdad, December 19 2015. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily

CAIRO (Reuters) - Iraq plans to launch the operation to dislodge Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul in the first half of 2016, Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi told Reuters on Thursday.

Mosul is the largest city under control of the militants who captured it in 2014 to declare a caliphate over vast swathes of Sunni populated regions of Iraq and Syria.``I can say the battle won’t be delayed after the first half of this year, and its end by God’s will shall also be swift,’’ Obeidi said in an interview in Cairo. ``We can determine when the battle starts, but its end depends on variables.’’Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in December said 2016 will be the year of ``final victory’’ on Islamic State. He spoke after the Iraqi army retook from the militants the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad.

Reporting by Malak Ghobrial and Mahmoud Mourad. Maher Chmaytelli for the English version

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