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France deploys artillery, readies carrier ahead of Mosul offensive
September 6, 2016 | 8:10 PM
by Reuters
 
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Paris/Baghdad: France said on Tuesday it was deploying artillery to Iraq and readying its aircraft carrier for deployment to reinforce foreign military support for the Iraqi army's expected push to recapture Mosul, the de facto capital of IS in Iraq.

The Iraqi army and its elite units have gradually taken up positions around the city 400km (248 miles) north of Baghdad, with international coalition forces keen to capitalise on the militant group's loss of territory in both Iraq and Syria.

"We decided to bolster our support of the Iraqi forces this Autumn with the aim of recapturing Mosul," French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a gathering of defence and military officials in Paris.

"At this very moment, artillery is arriving close to the front line," Le Drian said, adding that the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier would soon leave for the Middle East.



French defence officials declined to give details on the nature of the artillery.

France, the first country to join US-led air strikes in Iraq, has stepped up aerial operations against IS, including in Syria, after several attacks by the group in France. Paris also has special forces operating in both countries and has provided weapons to Syrian rebel groups.



Meanwhile, Iraq has put out fires at six more oil wells in the Qayyara region, which Iraqi forces recaptured from IS late last month, but at least three fires are still blazing, the oil ministry said on Tuesday.

The militants sabotaged much of Qayyara's oil infrastructure before fleeing ahead of the government advance, sending black smoke into the sky for days and oil pouring into main thoroughfares.

The authorities said last week they had already put out fires from four wells, but a Reuters correspondent visiting the city afterwards saw around a dozen separate plumes of smoke and a military officer in the area said on Sunday the fires were still raging.

"The firefighting consisted of removing explosives from these wells, putting out the fires and preventing crude oil from leaking into the river to prevent pollution," ministry spokesman Asim Jihad said.

Responders also built dirt walls and trenches to prevent oil from reaching residential neighbourhoods, he added.

Jihad said three wells that remain outside the control of the security forces would be extinguished as soon as they were recaptured.

The Qayyara region produces heavy sour crude and has a small refinery to process some of the oil.

The oil ministry has said it does not expect to resume production from the Qayyara region before security forces recapture Mosul. The two main fields, Qayyara and Najma, used to produce 30,000 barrels per day of heavy crude before the takeover by IS.

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