Iraq starts operation to drive ISIS out of west Mosul

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BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraq has launched an operation to regain control of western Mosul from ISIS, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said late Saturday night.

The prime minister described the operation, which comes after Iraq recaptured eastern Mosul, a “new dawn” in the liberation of Mosul.

He urged Iraqi organizations to provide humanitarian services and support to the liberated area.

“Go forward with my blessing, hero forces of Iraq,” he said.

Fears of ‘deadly and indiscriminate’ deaths

ISIS seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, in 2014. The offensive to retake the city began in October with a push by the Iraqi army, counter-terrorism forces, federal police and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Iraqi forces have controlled the eastern part of the city since January, but control of Mosul’s west bank has eluded them. Over the past two years, ISIS has dedicated much of its defensive preparations to the western portion of the city.

The area has been targeted by airstrikes in the past. This operation marks the first major ground offensive.

Iraqi forces will not be able to attack across the river because all five bridges connecting the eastern and western parts of the city are heavily damaged. The offensive is expected to come from the south and west.

Moreover, the older part of the city has warrens of alleys that are impassable to military vehicles.

Save the Children warned that “the impact of artillery and other explosive weaponry in those narrow, densely populated streets is likely to be more deadly and indiscriminate than anything we have seen in the conflict so far.”

Weapons, facilities destroyed

In addition to killing militants and retaking 10 villages, Iraqi Federal Police forces said they destroyed 13 booby trapped vehicles and dismantled 30 explosive devices.

Forces also destroyed five explosive belts and three tunnels and seized a store of projectiles.

On Friday and Saturday, American-made, Iraqi-owned F-16 warplanes carried out attacks in Wadi Akab industrial areas of western Mosul that destroyed multiple targets, Iraqi Joint Operation Command said.

The targets included six makeshift factories for booby trapping vehicles and two makeshift workshops for armoring vehicles, the statement said.

Additionally, forces destroyed a large warehouse of weapons and explosives, another building where foreign experts in booby trapping were stationed, two vehicles laden with explosives and two more loaded with heavy machine guns.