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Saudi foreign minister warns of mass atrocities if Shiite militias enter Mosul

People who fled the Islamic State's strongholds of Hawija and Mosul, receive aid at a camp for displaced people in Daquq, Iraq, in this October 13, 2016 photo. (Reuters)

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces advanced Monday after launching an offensive aimed at retaking Mosul and dealing a death blow to the Daesh group’s “caliphate” in the city where it was declared two years ago.
The start of the long-awaited assault raised deep concerns for hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped in Iraq’s second-largest city, with aid groups warning of a massive humanitarian crisis.
Some 30,000 federal forces are leading the offensive, backed by air and ground support from a 60-nation US-led coalition, in what is expected to be a long and difficult assault on Daesh’s last major Iraqi stronghold.
Iraqi forces could be seen readying weapons and ammunitions as columns of armored vehicles headed toward Mosul from the town of Al-Shoura, some 45 km south of the city.
The Pentagon described the operation as a “decisive moment” in the fight against Daesh but the US-led coalition’s top commander warned it could last weeks or more. It said early indications were that Iraqi forces were meeting objectives and were ahead of schedule.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced the beginning of the assault in a televised address in the early hours of Monday. “Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh,” Abadi said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said that Riyadh had urged the Iraqi government not to let Shiite militias enter Mosul, fearing “mass atrocities.”
Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir warned against a repeat of the events in Fallujah, which Daesh was chased out of in June. “We oppose any kind of involvement by the Shiite militias,” Al-Jubeir told a press conference in London.

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