Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Monday announced the start of a military operation to recapture Mosul, the country's second largest city, from the Islamic State (IS) terror group.
In an address broadcast on state television in the early hours of Monday, Abadi said: "The hour of victory has come, the operation to liberate Mosul has started," BBC reported.
"Today I declare the start of the heroic operations to liberate you from IS," he said.
"God willing we will meet in Mosul to celebrate the liberation and your salvation from IS so we can live together once again, all religions united and together we shall defeat it to rebuild this dear city of Mosul."
Surrounded by senior Iraqi officers, he vowed that only government forces would enter Mosul, a Sunni-majority city.
This long-awaited assault from Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi government and allied forces is backed by the US-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq.
Mosul has been under IS control since June 2014.
"This is a decisive moment in the campaign to deliver IS a lasting defeat," said Secretary of Defence Ash Carter in a statement.
"The US and the rest of the international coalition stand ready to support Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga fighters and the people of Iraq in the difficult fight ahead. We are confident our Iraqi partners will prevail against our common enemy and free Mosul and the rest of Iraq from IS's hatred and brutality," Fox News quoted Carter as saying.
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