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Iraqi forces launch push to retake western Mosul from IS

  • FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2016 file photo, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi forces have launched an operation to retake the western half of Mosul from the Islamic State group. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the operation early Sunday morning, Feb. 19, 2017, on state television, saying government forces were moving to "liberate the people of Mosul from Daesh oppression forever", using the Arabic acronym for IS. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

    FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2016 file photo, Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraqi forces have launched an operation to retake the western half of Mosul from the Islamic State group. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the operation early Sunday morning, Feb. 19, 2017, on state television, saying government forces were moving to "liberate the people of Mosul from Daesh oppression forever", using the Arabic acronym for IS. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE -- In this Jan. 24, 2017 file photo, Iraqi Army soldiers celebrate with residents of liberated neighborhoods as they hold upside down a flag of the Islamic State group, in the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq. The U.N. and several aid organizations say an estimated 750,000 civilians are still living under Islamic State rule in Mosul despite recent advances by Iraqi forces. Lise Grande, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement Tuesday that the cost of food and basic goods is soaring, water and electricity are intermittent and that some residents are forced to burn furniture to keep warm. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)

    FILE -- In this Jan. 24, 2017 file photo, Iraqi Army soldiers celebrate with residents of liberated neighborhoods as they hold upside down a flag of the Islamic State group, in the eastern side of Mosul, Iraq. The U.N. and several aid organizations say an estimated 750,000 civilians are still living under Islamic State rule in Mosul despite recent advances by Iraqi forces. Lise Grande, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement Tuesday that the cost of food and basic goods is soaring, water and electricity are intermittent and that some residents are forced to burn furniture to keep warm. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE In this Dec. 6, 2016 file photo, an Iraqi soldier from the 9th Infantry Division holds his machine gun while heading to the frontline in Shyma district in Mosul, Iraq. Iraqi forces, backed the U.S.-led international coalition, launched a campaign in October to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city and IS's last major urban bastion in Iraq. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo, File)

    FILE In this Dec. 6, 2016 file photo, an Iraqi soldier from the 9th Infantry Division holds his machine gun while heading to the frontline in Shyma district in Mosul, Iraq. Iraqi forces, backed the U.S.-led international coalition, launched a campaign in October to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city and IS's last major urban bastion in Iraq. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo, File)  (The Associated Press)

Iraqi forces have launched an operation to retake the western half of Mosul from the Islamic State group.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of the operation early Sunday morning on state television, saying government forces were moving to "liberate the people of Mosul from Daesh oppression forever", using the Arabic acronym for IS.

Southwest of Mosul, near the city's IS-held airport, plumes of smoke were seen rising into the sky as coalition aircraft bombed militant positions. Further south at an Iraqi base, federal police forces were gathering and getting ready to move north.

Iraqi forces took control of eastern Mosul last month, but the west remains in the hands of entrenched extremists.