Battle for Mosul: Operation to retake Iraqi city from IS begins

Source: BBC

An Iraqi operation to recapture the city of Mosul, the last major stronghold of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the country, has started.

Artillery began firing on the city early on Monday, in a long-awaited assault from Kurdish peshmerga, Iraqi government and allied forces.

Tanks are now moving towards the city, which has been held by IS since 2014.

The UN has expressed “extreme concern” for the safety of up to 1.5 million people in the area.

The BBC’s Orla Guerin, who is with Kurdish forces east of Mosul, says tanks are advancing on the city, throwing up clouds of dust.

As the operation began, one Kurdish general told our correspondent: “If I am killed today I will die happy because I have done something for my people.”

Kurdish forces say they have retaken a number of villages in their advance.

Meanwhile pro-government forces are attacking from an airbase in Qayyarah, about 60km (37 miles) to the south, which was recaptured in August.

Map of Mosul and Iraq

The US-led coalition fighting IS is backing the assault with air strikes, The operation is complex and analysts say it could last for weeks, if not months.

The start of the operation was announced by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in a televised address in the early hours of Monday (local time). “The hour of victory has come,” he said.

“God willing we will meet in Mosul to celebrate the liberation and your salvation from Isis (IS) so we can live together once again, all religions united and together we shall defeat Daesh to rebuild this dear city of Mosul,” Mr Abadi said.


Who is fighting?

About 30,000 pro-government troops are involved in the operation. The main assault is being led by Iraqi army troops based south of Mosul.

About 4,000 Kurdish peshmerga militia have begun clearing villages in the east.

Sunni tribal fighters and Shia-led paramilitary forces are also due to take part. Planes from the US-led coalition against IS are providing air support.

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