London, United Kingdom
Sep 24, 2016, 05.01 AM (IST)
British warplanes provide air support to Iraqi troops in targeting IS positions ahead of major offensive to retake Mosul
Britain confirmed a major offensive by Iraqi security forces to recapture the key northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State militants "in the next few weeks".
Britain's defence secretary Michael Fallon said on Friday, "Though Mosul is a large and complex city, it will fall and will fall soon. I expect the operation for its encirclement to begin in the next few weeks," following a three-day trip to Iraq.
The Iraqi forces were moving to a tactical assembly area in preparation for the assault and received air support from the British Tornado and Typhoon aircrafts from the UK air base in Cyprus.
"We'll stand by them. We'll support them. We will make it do-able for them," a senior Royal Air Force officer Air Commodore Sammy Sampson said.
The British warplanes destroyed several militant positions in recent days. IS weapons stockpiles and rocket launchers north of Ramadi were also hit in the strikes.
"We were striking targets to weaken (IS-held) Mosul from the very beginning of the campaign," said Sampson, who is based in the Combined Air Operations Centre in Qatar.
Mosul is the IS group's last major urban stronghold in Iraq, 360 kilometres northwest of Baghdad.