Iraqi forces say they are on the verge of launching a major offensive to retake Mosul from Islamic State. Preparations for the assault on Iraq’s second city have been going on for months, while the UN warns it could spark the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis. The UN also fears that IS will use civilians as human shields once the battle begins. Iraqi special forces are being deployed around Mosul’s suburbs, and the push on the city may come from at least three different directions, with other army units deployed south of the city. Mosul was seized by IS - or Daesh - in June 2014 after Iraq forces fled, and remains the last major city they hold. On Saturday night, the Iraqi air force dropped thousands of leaflets on Mosul warning residents that the battle was imminent. “It’s victory time,” said one of the leaflets. “Time to celebrate a clean Iraq without ‘Daesh’ or any dark belief.”
We are preparing to take action to free Mosul and regain security and stability in the region.
Message from a leaflet dropped on Mosul
The offensive will be a joint operation by the Iraqi military, Kurdish Peshmerga and a Shia paramilitary force. It is thought that around 30,000 troops will be needed to retake the city. But there have been fears that ethnic and religious rivalries could undermine a cohesive military campaign.