Irbil (Iraq): Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of military operations to liberate the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants today, launching the country on its toughest battle since American troops left nearly five years ago.
State TV aired a brief statement in the early hours on Monday, announcing start of the widely anticipated military offensive to drive IS out of Iraq’s second largest city. Broadcasts showed the Prime Minister, dressed in the uniform of the elite counter terrorism forces, speaking while flanked by senior military officers. “These forces that are liberating you today, they have one goal in Mosul which is to get rid of Daesh and to secure your dignity. They are there for your sake,” he told the city’s residents, using an alternate name for the militant group. “God willing, we shall win.” The thuds of sporadic artillery shelling rumbled across the rolling Nineveh plains in the direction of Mosul, witnesses said. State TV broadcasted patriotic music within minutes of the announcement.
The push to retake Mosul will be the biggest military operation in Iraq since American troops left in 2011 and, if successful, the strongest blow yet to the Islamic State.
A statement on Al-Abadi’s website pledged the fight for the city marked a new phase that would lead to the liberation of all Iraqi territory from the militants this year.