Iraqi PM announces start of offensive to retake Mosul
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi late on Sunday night announced the start of the military operation to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group, marking the beginning of a much-anticipated offensive to dislodge the militant group from its final stronghold in Iraq.
In a speech televised on Iraqi TV, the prime minister said that only the Iraqi army and federal police forces will enter the city, and called Mosul residents to cooperate with the government forces who have come to liberate them.
Abadi vowed that 2016 would be the year in which Iraq gets rid of terrorism and regains sovereignty over all of its territories.
The prime minister appeared in the uniform of the elite counterterrorism forces, speaking while flanked by senior military officers.
Brett McGurk, the US envoy to the coalition against IS, said Abadi's order called for "major operations" to free the city.
"Godspeed to the heroic Iraqi forces, Kurdish #Peshmerga, and #Ninewa volunteers. We are proud to stand with you in this historic operation," he tweeted.
Soon after the announcement, the local Alsumaria TV reported that IS was calling on its fighters to retreat from the left bank of the city.
“Daesh on Sunday night called on its fighters to retreat from the left bank of Mosul through mosque speakers,” the network quoted a local source as saying.
The source reported that IS was describing Mosul residents as “hypocrite” in a reference to possible local resistance operations carried out against the militant group.
Mosul, once home to more than 2 million people, fell to IS fighters more than two years ago. The operation to retake it is expected to be the most complex yet for Iraq's military.