Iraqi forces launch nighttime raid as new phase of Mosul campaign unfolds

January 6, 2017 15:38

NORTH OF MOSUL, Iraq/BAGHDAD - Elite Iraqi troops bridged a river under the cover of darkness to seize a district of Mosul in an unprecedented night raid early on Friday, part of a new phase in the battle to capture the city from Islamic State after weeks of slowed momentum.

Since last week, Iraqi forces have launched a renewed push to seize ground in the nearly three month-old offensive to capture the city, after progress stalled last month because of a need to slow the advance to protect civilians.

Iraqi forces would soon "cut the head of the snake" and drive the ultra-hardline group from its largest urban stronghold, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said in a speech on Friday.

The battle for Mosul is the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. A victory by the 100,000-strong US-backed pro-government force would probably spell the end for Islamic State's self-styled caliphate that has ruled over millions of people in Iraq and Syria since 2014.

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