Iraq Launches Final Offensive To Kick ISIS Out Of Mosul

In a briefed televised speech on state TV, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the operation, saying the government forces were moving to "liberate the people of Mosul from Daesh oppression and terrorism forever", using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Fierce fighting is raging in the historic Iraqi city of Mosul, which has been under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant for more than two years.

In a written statement, the organization's Iraq country director Maurizio Crivallero said, "Iraqi forces and their allies, including the United States and United Kingdom, must do everything in their power to protect children and their families from harm, and avoid civilian buildings like schools and hospitals as they push deeper into the city".

Two suicide auto bombers struck army and paramilitary forces west of Mosul on Monday, killing and wounding a number of troops, two army officers said, without specifying the number of casualties.

Up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the offensive as residents of western Mosul suffer food and fuel shortages and markets are closed, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters on Saturday.

Hundreds of Iraqi military vehicles rolled across the desert towards Mosul on Sunday, showering the city with airstrikes, the BBC reported, in what was the decisive day of a four month operation. The fighting will get tougher as they get nearer to the city itself and the risk greater for civilians.

Mr Al-Abadi called on security forces to deal with civilians properly and respect human rights.

Unlike the east, much of the west is composed of old houses forming narrow alleyways, making the use of armoured vehicles more hard and promising a tougher fight.

IS considers Raqqa as its capital in Syria. Of those, more than 1,000 have been killed, according to Iraqi estimates. The movement has since been formally put under government control and viewed as a paramilitary wing of the Iraqi armed forces.

New batches of children arrived at the Zuhur orphanage every few weeks from outside Mosul, including a few from neighboring Syria, while older boys were sent to the town of Tel Afar west of Mosul for intensive military training for duties including with ISIS's courts or vice squad, residents said. It later retracted that statement and fighting continues in some parts of the east.

Away from the television cameras Iraqi soldiers often suspect civilians in Mosul of having been much more cooperative with Isis since 2014 than they now claim.

Iraqi forces are receivng substantial air support from the US-led coalition as well as from Iraqi army aviation helicopters.

Capturing Mosul would effectively end the militants' ambitions for territorial rule in Iraq.

  • Leroy Wright