Iraqi forces led by federal police units retook two villages south of Mosul as part of a fresh push on the city´s west bank Sunday, a top commander said.
Army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement that forces advancing toward Mosul airport retook Athbah and Al-Lazzagah, reviving a four-month-old offensive that was paused following the reconquest last month of the city´s east bank.
Earlier on Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the launch of military operations to retake west Mosul from the Islamic State group, four months into a massive offensive on the city.
“We announce the start of a new phase in the operation, we are coming Nineveh to liberate the western side of Mosul,” Abadi said in a brief televised speech, referring to the province of which Mosul is the capital.
“Our forces are beginning the liberation of the citizens from the terror of Daesh,” Abadi said, using an Arabic acronym for the group that took over the northern city in June 2014.
Iraqi federal forces launched a huge offensive on October 17 to retake Mosul, the jihadists´ last major bastion in the country, and secured the east bank of the city last month after weeks of fierce fighting.
The west bank of Mosul is a little smaller than the east but even more densely-populated and home to some of the jihadists´ traditional strongholds.
Federal police and interior ministry forces were expected to start the new phase in the offensive by moving on Mosul airport, which is on the southern edge of the city, west of the Tigris River.