Iraqi army begins operations to retake Mosul
The Iraqi army said Thursday its troops and allied militia had launched what is expected to be a long and difficult offensive to retake the second city of Mosul, the Islamic State group's main hub in Iraq.The new Marine Corps base that has come under ISIL attacks in recent days appears to be in support of the operations to retake ISIL. If this operation is anything like the one to retake Ramadi, do not expect shock and awe. It will probably be a slow grind.
The army and the Popular Mobilisation paramilitary force "have begun the first phase of conquest operations" in the northern Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, Iraq's joint operations command said in a statement.
It said four villages had been taken between the town of Qayyarah, which is still held by IS, and Makhmur, where US-backed Iraqi forces have been massing in recent weeks.
The army did not say how long this phase of the operation was expected to take and Iraqi forces still look far from being in a position to take the city itself.
The joint operations command is coordinating the battle by Iraqi security forces to retake the large parts of the country seized by IS during a lightning offensive in 2014.
It includes representatives from the US-led coalition that has provided air support, training and military advisers for the Iraqi army in its fightback.