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700,000 will need aid once Mosul offensive starts: UN
by Staff Writers
Geneva (AFP) Sept 29, 2016

US eyes trove of intelligence after Mosul fight
Washington (AFP) Sept 29, 2016 - The Pentagon hopes to obtain a raft of intelligence on the Islamic State group, including its foreign networks, during its planned offensive to retake Mosul from the fighters, a military spokesman said Thursday.

Many of the 615 additional soldiers Washington is sending to Iraq are intelligence specialists who will help the Iraqis use any intelligence gathered from the northern city as quickly as possible.

"When you free a city like Mosul, you can expect a tremendous lot of intelligence," Colonel John Dorrian, a coalition spokesman, said in a videoconference from Baghdad.

The coalition expects to find computers, hard drives, USB keys and other storage devices abandoned by IS during the fight, as was the case during the recent recapture of the Syrian city of Manbij.

Nearly 20 terabytes of data were collected in the offensive of that city, which had served as a logistical hub for IS near the border with Turkey.

"Information taken in Manbij has been distributed to security services throughout Europe," Dorrian said.

The additional US forces, announced Wednesday, will be deployed to Iraq in the coming weeks, American officials said.

IS seized Mosul along with other areas in June 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground from the jihadists and are readying for a drive to retake Iraq's second-largest city.

In addition to intelligence gathering, the US forces will boost the Iraqi military's logistical capabilities, including on the sprawling Al-Asad Airbase in Anbar province.

Some 3,000 to 4,500 IS fighters -- both foreign and Iraqi -- are in the city, according to Dorrian, slightly lower than previous estimates of around 5,000.

"They do keep loosing people because we keep hammering with air strikes," Dorrian said.

The UN said Thursday it expected at least 700,000 people in Iraq's second city of Mosul would need assistance once an expected offensive on the Islamic State group stronghold begins.

"Mosul has the potential to be one the largest... disasters of many, many years," warned Bruno Geddo, the United Nation's refugee agency's main representative in Iraq.

Iraq is already facing one of the world's biggest displacement crises, with around 3.3 million people forced to flee their homes in the country since 2014.

IS seized Mosul along with other areas in June 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained significant ground from the jihadists and are preparing a drive to retake the city by the end of the year.

In a sign the battle could happen soon, Washington said this week it would send some 600 extra troops to train local forces for the offensive.

Geddo warned that more than one million people might be displaced during that offensive.

"We are planning for at least 700,000 who will be in need of assistance, shelter food, water, everything that you need in a situation of humanitarian disaster," he told reporters in Geneva.

UNHCR has already begun building camps in anticipation of the exodus, but as it races against the clock, it is struggling to find available land and funds to build others, Geddo said.

The UN agency is hoping to have 11 camps finished by the end of the year with the capacity to hold 120,000 people, while Iraqi authorities expect to be able to house 150,000 more, he explained.

"This is the plan.... The capacity is much lower," he warned.

Even if the plan works, an estimated 430,000 displaced people would be left without accommodation.

To avoid leaving them without shelter, UNHCR is aiming to build a number of "emergency camps" located near the city and the surrounding villages where the battle is expected.

People would only stay at these sites for very short periods of time, he said, pointing out that once a village or an area was secured, people could hopefully return to their homes.

Geddo said the UN had already begun prepositioning work. "We will pitch our tents everywhere," he said.

While there has been much recent discussion about the launch of the drive on Mosul, preparations for it began months ago, with Iraq first announcing the launch back in March.

Since then, nearly 62,000 people have fled the city and surrounding areas, according to the International Organization for Migration.

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