British special forces are preparing to launch a two-pronged attack on the Islamic State (Isis) strongholds of Mosul in Iraq and Sirte in Libya. Several hundred troops from the Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Boat Service (SBS) will join French, Italian and US Special Forces to mount the attack within weeks, sources say.
Daesh (Isis) has been gaining ground in Libya, despite losing the key town of Derna on 21 April, and as a new unity government was announced, the special forces will team up with UN western troops to try to purge the jihadist threat.
Earlier in April, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond travelled to Libya to meet the leaders of the new Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) where he pledged British support. The US military has recently flown B52 bombers to Qatar to prepare for aerial attacks on the terrorists' position in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Meanwhile US president Barack Obama said last week that he believes that Isis's second city will fall before the end of 2016.
The SAS has been operating in Iraq for years, assassinating high-level jihadis and assisting forces fighting Isis in the self-proclaimed caliphate. One source told the Mirror that British special forces will spearhead an army of 70,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops for an assault on Mosul, in the Nineveh Province in northern Iraq.
A senior source said: "Our people [UK special forces] have been at the forefront in dismantling IS across northern Iraq and Syria and are already preparing the ground for the battle to recapture Mosul."
RAF Tornado bombers and Typhoon fighters will fly from the British Air Force base in Akrotiri, in Cyprus to attack the city.
SBS commandos are preparing to co-ordinate a simultaneous attack on Isis, which has an estimated 6,000 fighters dotted across the Mediterranean coast. A senior source told the paper: "The Coalition air campaign is crushing Islamic State. The aim now is to get into Mosul, capture Raqqa and at the same time strike at Sirte in Libya, so there is no escape."