US, Iraqi troops close in on last ISIS-held city

Updated 1:58 PM EDT, Sat September 17, 2016
iraq mosul battle build up damon pkg_00001810.jpg
CNN
iraq mosul battle build up damon pkg_00001810.jpg
Now playing
02:59
Iraqi army prepares to battle ISIS in Mosul
A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May).
Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks.
One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî.
His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack.
He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group.
Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems.
All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017.
Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June.
Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself.
ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty.
ìThe judge will now deci
Greater Manchester Police
A man from Lancashire who encouraged Islamic extremists to wage jihad in the West, including targeting Prince George and injecting poison in to supermarket ice-cream, has been convicted today (31 May). Husnain Rashid, 32, posted messages online glorifying successful terrorist atrocities committed by others while encouraging and inciting his readers to plan and commit attacks. One of his posts included a photograph of Prince George, along with the address of his school, a black silhouette of a jihad fighter and the message ìeven the royal family will not be left aloneî. His common theme was that attacks could be carried out by one individual acting alone. Rashid suggested perpetrators had the option of using poisons, vehicles, weapons, bombs, chemicals or knives. Rashid uploaded terrorist material to an online library he created with the goal of helping others plan an attack. He also planned to travel to Turkey and Syria with the intention of fighting in Daesh-controlled territories. He contacted individuals he believed to be in Daesh territory, seeking advice on how to reach Syria and how to obtain the required authorisation necessary to join a fighting group. Rashid provided one individual who had travelled to Syria and was known online as ìRepunzelî, with information about methods of shooting down aircraft and jamming missile systems. All the offences relate to Rashidís activities online between October 2016 and his arrest in November 2017. Rashidís trial started on 23 May at Woolwich Crown Court but he changed his plea to guilty on four counts on 31 May. He will be sentenced on 28 June. Sue Hemming from the CPS said: ìHusnain Rashid is an extremist who not only sought to encourage others to commit attacks on targets in the West but was planning to travel aboard so he could fight himself. ìHe tried to argue that he had not done anything illegal but with the overwhelming weight of evidence against him he changed his plea to guilty. ìThe judge will now deci
Now playing
02:00
Man convicted after threat to Prince George
the fall of ISIS_00013506.jpg
the fall of ISIS_00013506.jpg
Now playing
01:54
Fears of a new frontier in terror
CNN
Now playing
04:32
Mosul survivors search for loved ones
inside a former isis jail in raqqa paton walsh_00001610.jpg
inside a former isis jail in raqqa paton walsh_00001610.jpg
Now playing
02:52
Inside former ISIS jails in Raqqa
where is isis leader abu bakr al baghdadi pkg paton walsh_00015316.jpg
ISIS
where is isis leader abu bakr al baghdadi pkg paton walsh_00015316.jpg
Now playing
02:06
Hunting for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
raqqa stadium damon lklv_00002813.jpg
raqqa stadium damon lklv_00002813.jpg
Now playing
01:46
ISIS used stadium as prison
Raqqa,Syria
CNN
Raqqa,Syria
Now playing
02:31
Walking through the ruins of Raqqa
kidnapped yazidi child raised by american isis fighter damon pkg_00003130.jpg
kidnapped yazidi child raised by american isis fighter damon pkg_00003130.jpg
Now playing
03:06
Kidnapped Yazidi boy raised by American ISIS mother
Gabriel Chaim
Now playing
01:48
Exclusive GoPro footage inside Raqqa conflict
CNN
Now playing
02:40
CNN inside Raqqa, former ISIS stronghold
FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
AP
FILE - In this undated file photo released by a militant website, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, militants of the Islamic State group hold up their weapons and wave flags on their vehicles in a convoy on a road leading to Iraq, while riding in Raqqa, Syria. Simultaneous attacks on the Islamic State-held city of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa, the de facto IS capital across the border in eastern Syria, would make military sense: They would make it harder for the extremists to move reinforcements and deny them a safe haven. (Militant website via AP, File)
Now playing
01:25
Why Raqqa matters
Now playing
01:13
How ISIS is evolving
gabriel chaim
Now playing
01:42
Raqqa drone video shows ISIS execution square
(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. 
The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold.
 / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
(FILES) This image grab taken from a propaganda video released on July 5, 2014 by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, aka Caliph Ibrahim, adressing Muslim worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The Russian army on June 16, 2017 said it hit Islamic State leaders in an airstrike in Syria last month and was seeking to verify whether IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed. In a statement, the army said Sukhoi warplanes carried out a 10-minute night-time strike on May 28 at a location near Raqa, where IS leaders had gathered to plan a pullout by militants from the group's stronghold. / AFP PHOTO / AL-FURQAN MEDIA / --/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:38
ISIS leader seemingly breaks silence

Story highlights

'Hundreds' of US troops are stationed at a base 40 miles of Mosul

The battle for Iraq's second-largest city could start as soon as October

(CNN) —  

Indications are growing that the attack to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and ISIS’ last major stronghold in the country, could begin as soon as next month.

Hundreds of US troops have arrived at an air base 40 miles south of Mosul to support Iraq’s efforts to liberate that city, a US defense official told CNN.

The US-led coalition to counter ISIS says it carried out four additional airstrikes near Mosul and Qayyarah Friday, destroying eight ISIS fighting positions and damaging a tunnel entrance. Near Qayyarah, two strikes engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle, a weapons cache and 29 watercraft.

Qayyarah air base was recaptured from ISIS by Iraqi soldiers backed by US airstrikes in July and the American forces operating there will mainly provide logistics, supplies and support for the Iraqi offensive on Mosul. The move brings US personnel closer to the battle and ISIS’ defensive lines.

“When the (Iraqi Security Force) is ready to move on in their operations to get after Mosul, we’ll be prepared to support that and the airfield will be ready,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian told reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon. He added that coalition forces are conducting intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance efforts in the area.

Asked if US forces advising the Mosul operation faced increased risk, Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters Thursday that “the secretary (of defense) has made clear that our forces in Iraq are in harm’s way. Everyone who is serving there is in a dangerous situation.”

The air base is also expected to be rebuilt to allow US and coalition aircraft to operate there, since its proximity to Mosul makes it tactically important.

“This is a partnered effort. This is something we’re working from both the land component perspective with the Iraqis and clearly ensuring that, as we begin to put some of our airplanes in there in the future, that it’s got the capabilities that we need,” Harrigian added, describing efforts to prepare Qayyarah.

The assault could begin as early as October, according to several US officials. The next stage of the effort to retake Mosul will involve attempts to seize towns and villages on the southern outskirts of the city.

Iraqi security forces air dropped thousands of leaflets south of the city over the weekend warning citizens in anticipation of a new offensive.

“Protect yourself, don’t be human shields for the enemy, leave the town immediately,” a leaflet shown by the Iraqi military to CNN said.

The coalition is stepping up airstrikes along key infiltration routes into Mosul in hopes of keeping the city from being reinforced further by ISIS, a US defense official added.

The coalition announced Friday that it had carried out airstrikes Thursday against a logistics facility in Mosul and an ISIS tactical unit in Qayyarah.

The fight for Mosul is expected to be a difficult one. Defense officials and intelligence analysts said ISIS has dug-in since it first seized the city in 2014.

There are 3,000 to 4,500 ISIS fighters in Mosul, according to Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. John Dorrian.

“There is still a tough fight ahead against an adaptive enemy that will try to challenge us as we hone in on Mosul,” said Harrigian, the commander of US air forces in the Middle East.

Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report