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Iraqi forces gather at the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on October 16, 2016

Iraqi forces have launched a campaign to retake Mosul, the self-declared capital of the Islamic State, the prime minister said Monday in what the US hailed as a “decisive moment” in the battle to crush the jihadist group. Up to 1.5 million civilians remain in the city, the United Nations said, voicing fears the vastly outnumbered Islamists could use them as human shields as they seek to repel the assault on its last major stronghold in the country. “Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised address, using an alternative name for the IS group.

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