France says it has deployed artillery to Iraq and is preparing to dispatch an aircraft carrier to the Arab country as part of reinforcements for a major operation in the strategic northern city of Mosul.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the deployment in an address to a gathering of defense and military officials in Paris on Tuesday.
"We decided to bolster our support of the Iraqi forces this autumn with the aim of recapturing Mosul," he said, adding, "At this very moment, artillery is arriving close to the front line.”
Le Drian further noted that the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier would soon leave for the Middle East.
France is a member of the US-led coalition that has been conducting air raids against purported positions held by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group in Iraq since August 2014. The aerial assaults, however, have failed to disband the extremists.
The Iraqi army is gearing up for an offensive in late September to purge Daesh from Mosul, the last remaining bastion for the terror group in the north of the country. The Iraqi army and its allies have gradually taken up positions around the city over the past few weeks.
UN distributes food aid in Iraq’s Qayyarah
Also on Tuesday, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said it had delivered food supplies to over 30,000 Iraqis in the town of Qayyarah, which was retaken from Daesh in a three-day operation led by Iraqi special forces on August 25.
The WFP said in a statement that Qayyarah had been "inaccessible for over two years," with food stocks "running dangerously low" and drinking water as well as medical services remaining "almost impossible to access."
It further warned that the Iraqi town is "in a dire state" with "black smoke" billowing from nearby oil fields that were set ablaze by terrorists.
"The people of Qayyarah ... are suffering extreme hunger with scarce access to food supplies," said Sally Haydock, WFP's country director for Iraq.
Qayyarah, which fell to Daesh in 2014, lies on the western bank of Tigris River, some 60 kilometers (35 miles) south of Mosul. The town is expected to be used as a launchpad for the upcoming action in Mosul.
The northern and western parts of Iraq have been plagued by gruesome violence ever since Daesh terrorists mounted an offensive in June 2014.
The Iraqi army and fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units have been engaged in joint operations to retake militant-held areas.