Maya Alleruzzo, File, Associated Press
FILE – In this Monday, June 8, 2009 file photo, residents walk past the tilted minaret of al-Nuri mosque in busy market area in Mosul, Iraq. U.S.-backed Iraqi troops pushed into the last Islamic State stronghold in the country’s second largest city of Mosul on Sunday, an Iraqi commander said, formally launching the final major battle of an eight-month campaign.
BAGHDAD — U.S.-backed Iraqi troops pushed into the last Islamic State stronghold in Mosul on Sunday, an Iraqi commander said, formally launching the final major battle of an eight-month campaign to drive the militants from Iraq’s second largest city.
The IS group captured Mosul when it swept across northern and central Iraq in the summer of 2014. Iraq launched a massive operation to retake the city last October, and has driven the militants from all but a handful of neighborhoods.
The extremists are expected to make their last stand in the Old City, a densely populated quarter with narrow, winding alleys.
Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Rasheed Yar Allah, who commands army operations in Ninevah province, said Iraqi special forces, the regular army and Federal Police are taking part in the operation to retake the Old City, which began Sunday at dawn.
Iraq state TV aired live footage showing thick black smoke rising from the Old City, with the sound of gunfire rattling inside. It said leaflets were distributed urging civilians to leave through five “safe corridors.”