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19 Feb, 2017 05:01

Iraq launches operation to retake western Mosul from ISIS

Iraq launches operation to retake western Mosul from ISIS

Iraqi forces have launched a major military operation to retake the western part of Mosul from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced.

“We announce the start of a new phase in the operation, we are coming to Nineveh to liberate the western side of Mosul,” Abadi said in a brief televised address, referring to the province of which Mosul is the capital, AFP quoted.

“Our forces are beginning the liberation of the citizens from the terror of Daesh,” Abadi added.

On Saturday, Iraqi aircraft dropped millions of leaflets in western Mosul, calling on residents to get ready to welcome the Iraqi troops as they continue the siege on the militants.

“Your armed forces... are advancing in the direction of the right side, relying on God. Get ready to welcome the sons of your armed forces and to cooperate with them, as your brothers on the left side have done, in order to reduce losses and speed up the conclusion” of the battle, one of the leaflets read, as cited by Reuters.

Other leaflets were aimed at IS members, urging them to “lay down their weapons and surrender,” according to the defense ministry’s statement.

Also on Saturday, the US-led coalition said that they had destroyed the de facto command center of IS in Mosul, a building in the main medical complex. The terrorists denied that the Friday strike was effective, and claimed it killed 18 people, most of them women and children, and wounded 47 others.

After the fall of Iraq's second largest city in June 2014, government forces, aided by US air power and Kurdish militia on the ground, have tried relentlessly to take the city back.

The latest operation to free the city from the jihadists began on October 17. After months of fighting, the coalition managed to secure the east bank of the city last month. The densely-populated west bank of Mosul is now the operation's target.

Around 750,000 people still remain in western Mosul, according to UN estimates. Electricity, food, and water shortages have placed the population on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.