2016-10-23 17:37:28

development minister, Rory Stewart, has warned, as his department announced £14m in aid to the embattled Iraqi city.

A large contingent of Iraqi troops has been battling Isis for control of Mosul, which the group has held since 2014.

Stewart told BBC’s Sunday Politics that with 30,000 forces taking on a few thousand Isis fighters, it seemed “overwhelmingly likely” that the Iraqi troops would prevail.

“The Islamic State is all about territory – it’s all about holding state. That’s what makes it different to al-Qaeda ... if they lose Mosul that will be a very, very significant blow to their credibility,” Stewart said, warning that this could mean the group seeking targets elsewhere.

“There is a serious risk that as it gets squeezed in the Middle East it is going to try and pop up somewhere else, and that could include attacks in Europe and the United States, and they’ve made it clear that that’s something they are focused on,” he said.

“So we also have, along with all the stuff we’re doing in the region, a big, big focus on counter-terrorism, security and making sure that we keep the United Kingdom and Europe safe.”

Stewart sought to allay fears of a humanitarian crisis, with an estimated 1 million people possibly fleeing Mosul. Humanitarian and medical staff in refugee centres were ready to provide support, he said.

“A lot of the investment has gone into creating a network of camps, these are refugee camps with tents and medical supplies and food, around the edge of Mosul,” he said.

The £14m in UK aid from the Department for International Development, which comes from a wider £40m made last month at the UN general assembly, will pay for shelter and medical care for tens of thousands of people.

The consignment would provide 66,000 people with shelter and support kits, including blankets, plastic sheeting and other items. Four mobile medical teams along with three ambulances and two health facilities would provide 42,000 people with healthcare.

There was “little doubt that we could soon see a mass movement of people out of the city”, said the international development secretary, Priti Patel.

“Preparing ahead of this crisis is vital. With our support, the residents of Mosul will get the shelter, supplies and medical care they need in the immediate aftermath of this crisis,” she said. “The UK’s goal is to support the Iraqi government to retake the city in a way that protects civilians, minimises the humanitarian impact and helps stabilise the country.”

YesIraq