Iraq PM announces operation to 'liberate' Mosul from IS
US-backed Iraq forces have been preparing to retake the IS stronghold for months Photograph: (Getty)
Operations to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group have begun, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on state television today.
"The time of victory has come and operations to liberate Mosul have started," the PM said in an address broadcast by the Iraqiya channel. "Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh (IS)," he added.
He clarified that only the army and police forces will enter Mosul. "The force leading liberation operations is the brave Iraqi army with the national police and they are the ones that will enter Mosul, not others."
US is providing both ground and air support to the Iraqi forces. Kurdish forces are moving in from the eastern part of the city.
The offensive to reclaim the IS stronghold has been planned for months. US-backed Iraqi forces recently retook key positions around the town of Qayyarah, 60 kilometres south of Mosul, setting the stage for the final attack.
Iraq's second-largest city, Mosul, which is the last major stronghold of the Islamic State in Iraq, has been under IS-control since 2014. A successful offensive would effectively destroy the Iraqi half of Islamic State 'caliphate'.
The fight to retake the Sunni-majority city is expected to be the biggest battle in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion.
IS fighters, who have a history of using civilians as human shields, have placed traps across the city, dug tunnels and recruited children as spies ahead of the offensive, Reuters had earlier reported.
The United Nations has warned that it could also create the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world, uprooting as much as 1 million people. Overstretched medical facilities in and around the city have also warned against a humanitarian disaster and the lack of adequate infrastructure to deal with it.
(WION with inputs from agencies)