See All The Unbelievable Photos And Videos As Iraqi Forces Destroy ISIS In Operation To Recapture Mosul

The long-awaited operation to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State is underway. On Monday, Iraqi forces began their mission to liberate the country’s second largest city. More than 25,000 troops, including paramilitary forces made up of Sunni tribal fighters and Shiite militias, will take part in the offensive. This is the biggest military operation since the departure of the U.S. from the country in 2011.

The Iraqi government surrendered Mosul to ISIS forces in June 2014, and the Iraqi army fled without a fight.

The Islamic State coveted Mosul because of its critical location on the banks of the Tigris River, making it a vital transportation hub between Syria and Iraq. To the north of the city, there are large oil fields and a key oil pipeline into Turkey.

Tens of thousands of leaflets have been dropped on Mosul by the Iraqi government to warn residents about the upcoming assault.

The Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi officially announced the start of Mosul military operation on Monday. “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,” he said in an address to his country.

Then it began.

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes hit a target near Mosul.

Airstrikes destroy a “car bomb factory” near Mosul.

ISIS went with a scorched earth strategy as Iraqi troops advanced on them.

There are an estimated 4,000-8,000 ISIS fighters defending Mosul. Daesh is said to have placed booby traps across the city of Mosul, dug tunnels and recruited children as spies in anticipation of an offensive to dislodge the jihadists from their Iraqi stronghold, Iraqis and U.S. officials said.

In one of the more crazier videos from the battle, a suicide bomber driving a truck full of explosives heads straight for a tank, dodges cannon blasts, smashes into the tank and then detonates the explosives. (2:55 mark)

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Another suicide driver attempted to blow themselves up in an attempted attack against Peshmerga Humvees.

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Iraq’s military says it has already inflicted “heavy losses of life and equipment” on ISIS in a district southeast of Mosul.

There is a force of 4,000 Kurdish peshmerga troops in three fronts that targeted villages on the outskirts of Mosul, with air support from the U.S.-led coalition.

The multi-phase operation to recapture the city is expected to last weeks, and possibly months.

Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, released a statement on the Iraqi offensive to liberate Mosul.

Brett McGurk, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, had this say.

The United Nations states that the Mosul operation could be the largest humanitarian situation in the world. The U.N.’s Bruno Geddo warned that more than 1 million people could be displaced by the battle, resulting in “one of the largest man-made disasters” in years.

[VICE/TIME/CNN]