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Canada Extends Mission In Iraq, Syria For Three Months

A member of the Iraqi security forces removes a banner bearing the logo of the Islamic State extremist group in eastern Mosul on January 19.

Canada has announced it is extending its military mission against the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Iraq and Syria through June 30.

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan on March 31 said the three-month extension will allow the government to further evaluate the nature of Canada's contributions to the U.S.-led coalition.

The mission was scheduled to finish at the end of March.

Canada first deployed forces to Iraq in mid-2014 and has twice extended its mission and expanded it to Syria.

A statement by the National Defense said the "scope and mission of Canada's military contribution will remain the same over the next three months."

It said the focus will remain on providing "advice" and "assistance" to Iraqi security forces.

Sajjan said about 200 Canadian special forces are operating in eastern Mosul.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are battling to free Mosul from IS fighters, their last stronghold in the country.

East Mosul has been declared liberated. Iraqi forces are gaining ground in heavily populated west Mosul but are facing fierce resistance from an estimated 1,000 IS fighters.

IS captured wide swathes of territory in 2014 and declared a so-called caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq.

The militants are now seeing those gains reversed, and they are being pressured in their final two strongholds -- Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP