Suicide bombing, shootouts kill around 55 as Iraq prepares for Mosul offensive

Around 55 people were killed in Iraq in attacks on Saturday that targeted a Shi'ite Muslim gathering, a police check-point and the family of a Sunni paramilitary leader opposed to ISIS, according to security and medical sources. The escalation comes as Iraqi forces are getting ready to launch an offensive to take back Mosul, the last Iraqi city still under control of the Islamic State group, in northern Iraq.

All the troops are ready, now they are just waiting for the order from the prime minister. The head of the snake is Mosul. I think ISIS knows this is the end of ISIS in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. Najim al-Jobori, the head of Nineveh operations command and one of the top Iraqi generals overseeing the Mosul operation

Saturday's heaviest toll was caused by a suicide bomber who detonated an explosive vest in the middle of a Shi'ite gathering in Baghdad, killing at least 41 people and wounding 33. ISIS has intensified bomb attacks in government-held areas this year as it loses territory to U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias. The launch of the Mosul operation is expected to be announced soon, but it will mark only the start of a battle that is likely to be the most difficult and complex yet in the war against ISIS.

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Iraq's military is still rebuilding from the humiliating defeat it suffered when the city fell to ISIS more than two years ago.




The battle may spark a humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations warning that up to one million people may be displaced by the fighting as winter sets in. Even the recapture of Mosul will not mark the end of the war against ISIS, which still holds other territory in Iraq and is likely to turn increasingly to insurgent tactics such as bombings and hit-and-run attacks as it loses more ground.