Iraqi forces capture Finance Ministry chief of Islamic State, PM al-Abadi says

BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces have captured the finance chief of the Islamic State in the battle for Tal Afar, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in comments published Sunday. Abadi made the announcement during a…

Iraqi forces capture Finance Ministry chief of Islamic State, PM al-Abadi says

BAGHDAD — Iraqi forces have captured the finance chief of the Islamic State in the battle for Tal Afar, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in comments published Sunday.

Abadi made the announcement during a meeting with visiting United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, after the two agreed on additional support from the United Nations to counter the Islamic State, including the development of a public fund to finance the peace process, the BBC reported.

The fund should provide an asset base for the Iraqi government as well as a major tool to finance reconciliation in Iraq, the BBC reported.

Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the populist bloc who runs the Iraqi government, traveled from Iran to Tel Afar on Saturday to attend celebrations to mark the city’s liberation from Islamic State control.

Celebrations followed the liberation of Tal Afar last week. Sadr, whose movement helped liberate the city, has also declared three days of national mourning.

In a demonstration of Iraqi military capabilities, thousands of volunteer fighters wearing camouflage fatigues made sure Tal Afar’s two bridges were still in operation.

On Wednesday, Iraqi troops fought through Islamic State’s last pockets of resistance in the town of Hawija. Once the last of the eight cities and towns ISIS has captured are secured, the next objective will be the city of Mosul, which was occupied by the militants in 2014.

At the heart of Mosul is a labyrinth of winding tunnels that aid the militants’ escape routes.

According to a report released Thursday by the United Nations, ISIS control of Mosul is retreating.

In Mosul, the militants have tunneled most of the city’s major streets, using pipes, cables and breathing holes, and rigged them with explosives, the report said.

The report said 63 percent of the city has been liberated.

It also cited a ceasefire agreement between Iraq and the United States allowing humanitarian groups and government agencies to re-enter Ramadi. Its report said 2,400 families from Anbar and Nineveh have returned home, but added they have found that services remain scarce.

The annual report said ISIS still controls a large chunk of eastern Syria.

It also attributed the sharp rise in attacks against U.S. and U.S.-backed partners in Iraq and Syria to the availability of the group’s oil revenue.

But the report did note that ISIS has lost nearly 2,000 square miles of territory in Syria and less than half that in Iraq, despite the allied forces’ relentless efforts to combat the group’s activities.

The resurgence of violence in Syria may be the key factor in the loss of Syrian territory.

As U.S.-backed forces control an expanded area in both Iraq and Syria, ISIS has lost its main supply route for the arms it used to resupply its forces.

From Raqqa to the city of Al-Bab, ISIS has been targeting Assad regime troops and allied Kurdish forces because of its resistance to Kurdish control of northern Syria. It has also unleashed the rebels it controls on government troops in the hope of drawing them back to fight against the Syrian government.

And as the battle for Mosul is nearing its end, ISIS is seeking to draw forces from its Turkish supporters toward its final holdout.

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