Iraq launches offensive on last Islamic State stronghold in Mosul

by Maher Chmaytelli and Isabel Coles | Reuters  |  published on February 20, 2017

IraqU.S.-backed Iraqi forces on Sunday launched a ground offensive to dislodge Islamic State militants from the western part of the city of Mosul, and put an end to their ambitions for territorial rule in Iraq.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the offensive in the northern city, asking the armed forces to “respect human rights” during the battle and to take care of those displaced by the fighting.

Islamic State militants are essentially under siege in western Mosul, along with an estimated 650,000 civilians, after they were forced out of the eastern part of the city in the first phase of an offensive that concluded last month, after 100 days of fighting.

Up to 400,000 civilians could be displaced by the offensive as residents of western Mosul suffer food and fuel shortages and markets are closed, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters on Saturday.

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