An operation to retake control of the city of Mosul from the Islamic State has been launched by a coalition of the Iraqi military, Kurdish Peshmerga, and other allied forces.
Artillery began bombarding IS positions on Monday morning, and Iraqi tanks and allied ground forces have started to move towards the city. Around 30,000 Iraqi troops are advancing towards the city from the south, with 4,000 Peshmerga fighters attacking from the east. Fighters from Sunni and Shia tribal militias are also expected to join the attack.
Is has an estimated 4-8,000 fighters in the city, although their supplies and military hardware are limited.
The US-led coalition is supporting the operation with air strikes, but analysts warn it could take months before the city is recaptured.
The UN has expressed “extreme concern” about the safety of the city’s 1.5 million population, with IS known to use civilians as human shields.
IS took the city in 2014 when the Iraqi military deserted the area. The US-provided military hardware the Iraqi military left behind were utilised by IS to launch offences in other areas in Syria and Iraq, and the group were able to finance their activities by raiding the city’s banks.
IS took control of vast swathes of land in Syria and Iraq in 2014, but after losing the battle of Kobane in January 2015 and under constant bombardment from the air from US and allied jets the tide has since turned against them. 2016 has seen the Iraqi military and allied forces take back many of the towns and villages in Iraq, while the Kurdish YPG and other forces in Syria have taken much of the group’s land in Syria, and are soon to push towards its de facto capital, Raqqa.