WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Air strikes by the United States and its allies have killed 18 Islamic State “leaders” in the last 30 days, 13 of them in Mosul, the group’s de facto Iraqi capital, a U.S. military spokesman said on Thursday.
Earlier this week the Pentagon announced that the United States would send around 600 new troops to Iraq to assist Iraqi forces in the battle to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants, who control parts of Iraq and Syria.
Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria, told a Pentagon briefing that many of those targeted were military commanders, propagandists and those facilitating foreign recruits into territory controlled by Islamic State, which has sympathizers worldwide.
“By taking these individuals off the battlefield, it creates some really disruptive effects to enemy command and control,” Dorrian said.
Dorrian said there are between 3,000 and 4,500 Islamic State fighters left in Mosul and while new fighters are not able to enter the city in large convoys, they still continue to move in small formations.
The United States has 4,565 troops in Iraq as part of a U.S.-led coalition providing extensive air support, training and advice to the Iraqi military, which collapsed in 2014 in the face of Islamic State’s territorial gains and lightning advance toward the capital, Baghdad.
Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Grant McCool