ISIL expanded its attacks on Monday against the Iraqi army and Kurdish forces, trying to relieve pressure on its own defences around Mosul, the group’s last major urban stronghold in the country.
About 80 villages and town held by ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS) were retaken in the first week of the offensive, bringing Iraqi and Kurdish forces closer to the edge of the city itself – where the battle will be hardest fought.
The Mosul campaign, which aims to crush the Iraqi portion of ISIL’s declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, may become the biggest battle yet in the 13 years of turmoil triggered by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Some 1.5 million residents remain in the city, and worst-case forecasts see up to a million being uprooted, according to the United Nations. UN aid agencies say the fighting has so far forced about 7,400 people to flee their homes.