Baghdad: The battle to liberate the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State terror group will be "difficult, bloody and long", the US-led coalition fighting the group in Iraq said on Tuesday.
Coalition spokesman US Army Col. Steve Warren told a press briefing here that Mosul was the centre of IS power and "we estimate between 5,000 and 8,000 fighters from IS in Mosul and some parts of Nineveh province".
Warren said that he believes the IS fighters will fiercely fight back and "there will be difficult battle, bloody battle and will be long one," Xinhua reported.
Warren pledged to free Mosul from IS militants, but he asked the people in militant-seized city to wait for longer time until the Iraqi troops will be ready carry out their major offensive, saying "it is difficult to say how long we need to free Mosul, but I would like to tell the people in Mosul you will be freed just hold on it will take time".
He also said that there is no plan to bring more troops in Iraq only if the Iraqi government asked for more troops, stressing that currently there are around 5,600 of the coalition troops; 3,600 US troops and some 2,000 more from other international coalition countries, on the Iraqi soil, all of them were brought at the invitation of the Iraqi government to provide training support and advice to the Iraqi security forces.
Mosul, the capital of Nineveh province, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces stunningly abandoned their weapons and posts and fled.