Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the beginning of an offensive to retake Mosul, the capital of Islamic State’s so-called caliphate in Iraq.
“The hour has come and the instant of great success is close,” he said in a speech on state TV, besieged by the armed forces’ top commanders. “I declare today the start of the operation to liberate the state of Nineveh.”
The attack on Mosul is backed the U.S.-led coalition and could be one be the biggest military operations in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Mosul is the last major stronghold of ultra-hardline Sunni group in Iraq.
With a pre-war population of approximately 2 million, the northern Iraqi city is the biggest city Islamic State has commanded after it declared a “caliphate” in Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014.