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MIDEAST >US says ISIL turned to suicide bombings as its on defensive

AMMAN – Agence France-Presse

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The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has “returned to suicide bombing” because the area under its control was shrinking and it was on the defensive, the top American envoy to the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition said. 

Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy in the fight against ISIL, said that ISIL had returned to the tactic of organizing suicide bombing attacks because it was on the “defensive,” and that the coalition was making progress to recapture Mosul from ISIL. 

“We are now making progress against Daesh,” McGurk said in Amman on May 15, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.

“The campaign to isolate and squeeze and constrict Daesh in Mosul has already began,” he said.

“We are doing precision air strikes in Mosul almost every day, we have a lot of information from the people who are inside Mosul about what Daesh is doing inside the city.”

His remarks came as jihadist suicide assailants broke into a gas plant north of Baghdad and killed at least 14 people, in an attack claimed by ISIL.

The Iraqi army said in late March that its troops and allied militia had launched what was expected to be a long and difficult offensive to retake Mosul, ISIL’s main hub in the country.

McGurk said ISIL was now under “constant, synchronised pressure.”

“Their territory is shrinking and they are now doing these suicide attacks against civilian populations. It is not going to work but this is what they are trying to do and it is nothing new,” said the U.S. envoy.

In Raqqa, McGurk said valuable intelligence gathered from a major trove of data and information obtained by U.S. special forces in a raid in eastern Syria last year allowed the coalition to better target militants, McGurk said. 

“We will be beginning over the coming weeks and months a pressure campaign on Raqqa in all its aspects,” Reuters quoted McGurk as saying. 

Obama’s decision last month to raise the number of special forces in northern Syria which was the biggest expansion of U.S. ground troops since its civil war began, would help accelerate recent gains by U.S.-backed local forces, McGurk said.

Iraqi forces collapsed in the face of the 2014 ISIL advance and the jihadist group ultimately overran around a third of the country.

ISIL has declared an Islamic “caliphate” in areas under its control in Iraq and in neighbouring Syria, where it has also seized significant territory.

The US-led coalition of Western and Arab nations launched air strikes against ISIL in Iraq in August of 2014 and has killed thousands of the jihadists.

May/16/2016

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