Peshmerga fighters, with the help of the Golden Division elite unit of the Iraqi Army known as the Golden Division, have launched a new offensive to push ISIL militants out of the villages around Mosul.
The northern Iraqi city has been under ISIL control since 2014. It’s the jihadist group’s last major stronghold in the country.
Local forces, backed by the US-led coalition, have been steadily recovering ground surrounding the city since Monday (October 18) and are now focussing on a group of villages some 20km to the north and east.
Preparing to enter Mosul
Reports suggest this could be the final big push before entering Mosul itself, where an estimated 5,000 ISIL fighters are still residing.
However, US Commanding General Gary Volesky said there had already been “movement out of Mosul; we’ve got indications that leaders have left.”
The location of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is currently unknown. While some reports suggest he is in Mosul, others claim he has fled.
Iraqi Joint Operations Commander, General Talib Shaghati, was optimistic about the assault.
“Our forces are pushing forward from different directions to retake the city. All of us are following the steps strictly as scheduled. All the forces are moving towards Mosul.
“Currently, the operation is going smoothly. Sometimes, the speed of progress is even faster than expected. We will be able to announce the happy news of having liberated Mosul soon and wipe out terrorism.”
People are starting to return home to some of the retaken villages. However, combat appears far from over and ISIL is not expected to give up its stronghold easily.