Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers deploy at base near Mosul

An Iraqi soldier guards the entrance of the Nineveh base for liberation operations in Makhmur, about 280 kilometres north of Baghdad, on February 11, 2016 (AFP Photo/Safin Hamed) (AFP/File)

Makhmur (Iraq) (AFP) - Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers have arrived at a northern base over the past 24 hours to prepare for operations to retake the city of Mosul from jihadists, officers said Friday.

AFP correspondents at the base in Makhmur, around 70 kilometres (45 miles) southeast of Mosul, saw 700 soldiers from the 15th division arrive late Thursday.

More soldiers were deployed there on Friday, said an officer who is part of the security command tasked with retaking Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, from the Islamic State group (IS).

A ceremony was held to mark their deployment in Makhmur, which is within territory controlled by Iraq's autonomous Kurdish government.

Iraqi officers have said the plan was to increase the number of federal Iraqi forces in Makhmur to 4,500.

The government retook Ramadi over the past weeks and efforts to reconquer more land from IS are now expected to focus on Mosul, the jihadists' main hub in Iraq.

Backed by coalition air strikes, an assault would involve a variety of different Iraqi forces and be complicated by the size of the Mosul region, where the government believes around a million people still live.

The Iraqi military set up a radio station called "As-Sanduq" at the base in Makhmur to keep residents informed of military developments in the area.

"This station is a way of communicating with the people of Nineveh and broadcasting the army's voice," said Sergeant Salem Mahmud, who is in charge of operating it.

"It is intended to reassure the people, to tell them that they will be liberated from Daesh," he said, using an Arab acronym for IS.

Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland, the commander of the US-led operation against IS, has said that Iraqi generals do not think they will be able to recapture Mosul until the end of 2016 or early 2017 at the earliest.