Recapture of Iraq’s second largest city, which the Islamic State captured in 2014, would mark the effective defeat of the group in Iraq, officials say.
It was from Mosul that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate — a state governed in accordance with Islamic law — in territory controlled by the group in Iraq and Syria.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced just before 2 a.m. Monday that the long-awaited campaign to liberate Mosul has started.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops have joined the fight: Kurdish peshmerga soldiers, Sunni tribal fighters, army troops, police officers, Shiite militias and elite counterterrorism units. From the sky and on the ground comes support from the U.S.-led coalition.
The United Nations is expressing “extreme concern” about the safety of up to 1.5 million people in the area.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels said they captured the village of Dabiq from the Islamic State on Sunday.
The group’s defeat at Dabiq, long a mainstay of the Islamic State’s propaganda, underscores its declining fortunes this year as it’s suffered battlefield defeats in Syria and Iraq and lost senior leaders in targeted airstrikes, says Reuters.
An Islamic prophecy names Dabiq as the site of a battle between Muslims and infidels that will presage doomsday.