The offensive to liberate Mosul from ISIS control has begun, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised statement early Monday, reports CNN.
"Our dearest people in Nineveh province, the victory bell has rung, and the operations to liberate Mosul have begun," he said. "I am announcing today the beginning of these heroic operations to liberate you from the brutality and terrorism of ISIS. God willing, we will meet soon on the ground of Mosul where we will all celebrate the liberation and your freedom."
Only forces with the Iraqi army and National Police will enter the city "and no others," the Prime Minister said.
Fighting with them are the Popular Mobilization Units, largely Shiite paramilitary forces that include Sunnis, Christians and other ethnic and religious groups. The units released a statement shortly after Monday's offensive began saying they were targeting ISIS tunnels and trenches south of Mosul with highly destructive thermobaric missiles.
In addition, Peshmerga Forces -- Kurdish fighters -- launched Monday morning a coordinated operation east of Mosul in Khazir. The Peshmerga General Command said the operation, launched in coordination with Iraqi Security Forces from Gwer and Gayyara, included as many as 4,000 fighters in an effort to clear occupied villages surrounding Mosul.
Prepare for a bloodbath and possibly (likely) hundreds of thousands new refugees.
About 1,5 million people are now in danger of having their city turned into a battlefield and a war zone, but it had to happen eventually.
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