One of the main bridges in Mosul has been taken out in an airstrike, as militia forces move to recapture the city from ISIS control.
According to CNN, witnesses warned the strikes took out al-Hurriya Bridge, but it is not clear who was responsible for the airstrikes.
Amaq, the news agency associated with ISIS, blamed American bombers.
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A convoy of Kurdish Pesmerga vehicles drive towards the front line of battle today ahead of the operation to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul
The Iraqi military and the Kurdish forces say they have began operations to recapture the city from the south and the east
The Peshmerga troops line up their vehicles, many of them were driving regular cars and pick-up trucks rather than military vehicles
The Kurdish troops sit on the back of their pick-up trucks as they prepare to advance towards villages on the outskirts of Mosul
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters stand on top of a tank earlier today as their vehicles head closer into the centre of Mosul
The Peshmerga troops set up their weapons this morning so they can hold their lines when the operation to retake Mosul begins
The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi has been speaking this morning to confirm troops have moved in to the city to reclaim it from ISIS.
Convoys of Iraqi, Kurdish and U.S. forces moved east of Mosul along the front line as U.S.-led coalition airstrikes sent plumes of smokes into the air and heavy artillery rounds could be heard.
‘The time of victory has come and operations to liberate Mosul have started,’ he said in an address broadcast by the Iraqiya channel.
‘Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh (IS),’ he said, addressing residents of the Mosul region.
‘These forces that are liberating you today, they have one goal in Mosul which is to get rid of Daesh and to secure your dignity. They are there for your sake. God willing, we shall win.’
The bridge is one of five connecting the two main parts of the city and its partial destruction makes any attempt of ISIS escape more difficult.
Last night, the Peshmerga troops gathered around a fire as they discussed the preparations to retake Mosul from ISIS
Mosul is a key city in the ISIS network and the last bastion of power for the group in Iraq. Pictured are Peshmerga forces last night
People have been warned to seal their doors and windows and told the final battle could be a bloody one.
Four page leaflets were dropped across the city by Iraqi forces telling people to avoid certain parts of the city and declaring the offensive signals ‘victory time’.
Mosul is a key city in the ISIS network and the last bastion of power for the group in Iraq.
The push to retake the city will be the largest military operation in Iraq since American troops left in 2011 and, if successful, the biggest blow yet to ISIS.
Ahmed al-Assadi, a lawmaker and spokesman for the militias, said: ‘We promise you that victory is near and that it will be a great victory fitting with the greatness of Iraq and its history and its people.’
After lining up their vehicles last night in preparation for the battle, many of the troops slept on top of the tanks to get some rest
A Peshmerga fighter smokes a cigarette before the battle for Mosul. Iraqi forces began moving into Nineveh province to surround Mosul in July
The fighting is likely to become messy and boil down to street battles.
Iraqi forces began moving into Nineveh province to surround Mosul in July, when ground troops led by the country’s elite special forces retook Qayara air base south of the city.
Thousands of Iraqi troops are now massing there ahead of the planned operation. Iraqi troops are also being deployed east of Mosul in the Khazer area, along with Kurdish Peshmerga forces, and to the north of the city near the Mosul Dam and Bashiqa areas.
In addition to the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Iraqi special forces and Sunni tribal fighters, Shiite militia forces are also expected to play a role in the Mosul operation.
Iraqi forces gather in their vehciles in Irbil yesterday ahead of an operation to regain Mosul from ISIS in northern Iraq
A Sunni Iraqi policeman prays at the Qayyarah military base, about 35 miles south of Mosul yesterday while preparing for an offensive
Iraqi policemen inspect their weapons and make preparations yesterday, including drawing up key tactics, as they get ready for the next few days work
Smoke rises in the background from burning oil wells that were set on fire yesterday ahead of the battle for Mosul
While Iraqi forces have won a number of territorial victories against ISIS over the past year, the Mosul fight is expected to be the most complex yet for the country’s military.
Mosul is Iraq’s second-largest city and still home to more than a million civilians.
Rebel fighters on Saturday also captured the town of Dabiq in northern Syria – which holds huge symbolic value – from ISIS.
Turkish troops, part of what is known as Operation Euphrates Shield, and planes helped various rebel groups push ISIS – sometimes referred to as Daesh – out of Dabiq.
Dabiq holds crucial ideological importance for ISIS because of a Sunni prophecy that states it will be the site of an end-of-times battle between Christian forces and Muslims.
A US-made armoured combat vehicle is seen parked at the Qayyarah military base yesterday as tanks are lined up ready for battle
Iraqi policemen clean a weapon yesterday as 30,000 pro-government troops prepare to launch an attack on Mosul in Iraq
But Ahmed Osman, head of the Sultan Murad group, a faction of the Free Syrian Army, said: ‘The Daesh myth of their great battle in Dabiq is finished.’
Some reports said ISIS put up ‘minimal resistance’ but others said there were ‘fierce clashes’.
The town itself has negligible military value compared with the strategic ISIS-controlled cities of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.
A commander of the Hamza Brigade, a Syrian rebel group, said ISIS fighters put up ‘minimal’ resistance to defend Dabiq before withdrawing towards al-Bab, further south.
Saif Abu Bakr said 2,000 of his men pushed into Dabiq with tank and artillery support from the Turkish Army.
The Free Syrian Army were also involved in the operation.
The people of Mosul have been warned to prepare for the battle ahead by sealing their doors and windows or leaving the area
The battle is expected to be fought on the streets as militia groups take back the ISIS controlled city. Pictured is an Iraqi policeman yesterday unloading his ammunition
The key city of Mosul has been controlled by ISIS, sometimes called Daesh, for two years. Pictured are Iraqi policemen standing at attention with gas masks yesterday
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the rebel fighters were working to dismantle mines laid in the town by retreating ISIS fighters.
Anadolu said nine Syrian rebels were killed and 28 others wounded during clashes on Saturday.
In the seventh century the Prophet Mohammed is believed to have said ‘the last hour will not come’ until Muslims vanquished the ‘Romans’ at Dabiq on their way to conquer ‘Constantinople’ (Istanbul).
Such is the significance of the town that ISIS’s English language magazine is named Dabiq.
Iraqi policemen unload ammunition yesterday as they prepare for an offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State
Pictured, policemen yesterday inspect the weapons before the movement. The militias have regained much of the territory lost to ISIS in 2014 and 2015
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels backed by Turkish planes and artillery ‘captured Dabiq after ISIS members withdrew from the area’.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said the fighters also captured the nearby town of Sawran.
One Turkey-backed rebel faction, the Fastaqim Union, also said Dabiq had fallen ‘after fierce clashes with Daesh.’
It published pictures on Twitter of a group of fighters on the back of a small white truck waving assault rifles in the air, with the town of Dabiq apparently in the background.
An Iraqi policeman tries on a gasmask at the militia base. A bridge in Mosul was taken out in an airstrike on the city on Sunday
An Iraqi policeman in his gasmask, as they prepare for the battle ahead, which government official say will be ‘bloody’
It is not clear who took out the bridge, but the news agency associated with ISIS blamed US forces. Pictured, smoke billows in the background yesterday as Iraqi forces gather at the Qayyarah military base
Iraqi forces gesture and wave the V for Victory sign as they gather at the base. It has only been a short time since they took the symbolic town of Dabiq in Syria
Flags are waved from the military vehicles yesterday on the way to Mosul as the soldiers warn that there could be a bloody final battle
WHY IS DABIQ SO SIGNIFICANT FOR ISIS?
Dabiq magazine (pictured) is ISIS’s English language magazine
Dabiq is a small, dusty town 25 miles north-east of Aleppo and six miles from the Turkish border, with a population of barely 3,000 and limited strategic value.
So why is its capture significant in the battle against ISIS?
An ancient prophecy about Dabiq has been a key part of the jihadist group’s propaganda since 2014 and gives its name to its English-language magazine.
In the seventh century the Prophet Mohammed wrote of a showdown between Muslims and their enemies.
Muslims believe in the ‘end of days’ – or Malahim – like the Christian Armageddon.
According to a prophecy attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, Dabiq would be the scene of the final battle between Christian and Muslim forces before the apocalypse.
He wrote in one hadith – a chapter in the Koran – ‘The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-Amaq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best soldiers of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (in what is now Saudi Arabia).’
ISIS says it has been seeking to bring about this final battle by goading its enemies to confront it near Dabiq.
Mohammed Emwazi – better known as Jihadi John – appeared in one ISIS video with Dabiq in the background and the severed head of an American aid worker at his feet.
Jihadi John, who was later killed in an air strike, said: ‘Here we are, burying the first American Crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive.’
But other jihadist groups have also mentioned Dabiq.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant who founded al-Qaeda in Iraq, said in a 2004 video message: ‘The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify…until it burns the Crusader armies in Dabiq.’
Dabiq magazine was launched two years ago and uses apocalyptic imagery to reach out to an international audience.
All of this makes it all the more odd that ISIS appears to have given up Dabiq with only minimal resistance. It suggests they are either too weak to put up a fight, or are trying to lure their enemies into a trap.