Iraqi forces launch major offensive in western Mosul

Operation in western Mosul launched Sunday morning in what Iraqi PM reports aims “to liberate the western side of Mosul”

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Iraqi US-backed forces launched a major ground offensive against ISIS in western Mosul Sunday morning in what Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi referred to as “beginning of liberation of the citizens from terror.”

It is the largest ground offensive in the ongoing four-month battle to take Mosul from the Islamic State, some 400,000 civilians displaced due to ISIS in the region. The mission is centered on liberating western Mosul.

According to initial reports, several small villages and towns have been retaken as forces move to capture Mosul’s airport.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Sunday morning the “start of a new phase in the operation. We are coming, Nineveh, to liberate the western side of Mosul.”

The mission includes US forces, Iraqi military and police forces and Kurdish forces.

The Iraqi air force dropped leaflets warning jihadists groups to surrender, as well as to warn residents ahead of Sunday’s mission to evacuate the area. ISIS has been using civilians from Mosul as human shields.

Mosul has been under siege by the Islamic State since June of 2014 where ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria from the Great Mosque of Mosul.