Iraqi forces launch operation to liberate western Mosul

Rocket fired by Iraqi forces in Mosul battle (c) AFP Photo/Ahmad al-Rubaye

Iraqi forces on Sunday launched the next phase of the military operation to liberate western Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) group.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally announced the ground offensive and asked Iraqi troops to be respectful of human rights.

The battle to take Mosul began in October and has been a long and arduous affair. According to security experts the operation will continue until at the least the summer due to the presence of 650,000 civilians in the city and the number of IS fighters in the group’s stronghold in Iraq.

The Iraqi Defence Ministry said on Saturday said planes dropped millions of leaflets on the western side of Mosul warning residents that the battle to dislodge IS was imminent.

Several villages have already been captured as the army, Kurdish and other militia forces, as well as global anti-IS coalition forces move from the south of Mosul to the west.