Iraqi forces launch push to retake western half of Mosul from ISIS

Commanders expect the battle in the west to be more hard than in the east because, among other things, tanks and armoured vehicles can not pass through its narrow streets and alleyways.

The U.S. -led military coalition said on Saturday its forces had destroyed a building in the main medical complex of western Mosul that was suspected of housing an ISIS command center.

"I announce today the start of military offensive to liberate the western coast of Mosul", al-Abadi said.

The police's target will be to capture the airport, located on Mosul's southern limits, and secure it for army engineers who will quickly rehabilitate the runway and the other facilities so that it can be used as a close support base for troops, he said. It also has special forces on the ground advising Iraqi fighters. Once inside the city the tempo of operations changed dramatically with barrages of vehicle bombs inflicting heavy military and civilian casualties.

"The situation is distressing". People, right now, are in trouble.

"West Mosul has the potential certainly of being more hard, with house-to-house fighting on a larger and more bloody scale", said intelligence analyst Patrick Skinner.

Referring to himself as Amjad, in addition to his IS alias "Abu Yusuf Sinjari", one of the boys explained about how he renounced the "ignorance" of his primitive Yazidi beliefs in exchange for Islamic State membership. There are an estimated 750,000 civilians in the western section of the city, according to the United Nations and other groups.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, a top US commander in Iraq, said the Iraqi forces are an "increasingly capable, formidable, and professional force".

The boys' families confirmed their identities and said that they have neither seen nor heard from their children since they were kidnapped in 2014.

Iraqi forces spent three months driving IS from eastern Mosul, but the militants appear to have left sleeper cells to carry out attacks behind the front lines. "The Iraqis know that it will be a tough fight".

Rasool declined to provide casualty figures. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.

  • Leroy Wright