Iraqi pro-government forces have launched a large-scale operation to retake Mosul, the last major stronghold of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in the country.
ISIL had seized Mosul during a lightning offensive in June 2014.
Backed by Kurdish fighters, the Iraq military launched their push towards the city in the early hours of Monday, October 17, 2016.
This is coming amid concerns from the United Nations that the well numbered fighters of the Islamic death cult could use the up to 1.5 million civilians remaining in the city as ‘human’ shields as they seek to repel the assault on its last major stronghold.
“The hour has come and the moment of great victory is near,” Haider al-Abadi, Iraq’s prime minister, said early on Monday in a speech broadcast on state TV, surrounded by the armed forces’ top commanders.
As the mop up assault started today, a Kurdish general told BBC that:
“If I am killed today I will die happy because I have done something for my people.”
The bid to retake Mosul comes after the military, backed by armed tribes, militias and US-led coalition air strikes, regained much of the territory the fighters seized in 2014 and 2015.
“We are proud to stand with you in this historic operation,” Brett McGurk, US envoy to the coalition against ISIL, said on Twitter at the start of the Mosul offensive.
About 30,000 pro-government troops will be trying to clear an estimated 4,000-8,000 Islamic State fighters defending Mosul.