The Big Picture

The battle to recapture Mosul

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have begun a military offensive to take back the ISIS-controlled city of Mosul. Leaders say liberating this city will be difficult and could take months. More than a million civilians are thought to be trapped in the city that was captured by ISIS two years ago.--By Leanne Burden Seidel
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Smoke rises from Islamic state positions after an airstrike by coalition forces in Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 18. The pace of operations slowed on Tuesday as Iraqi forces began pushing toward larger villages and encountering civilian populations on the second day of a massive operation to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. (Associated Press)
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A man stands in front of a fire from oil that has been set ablaze in the Qayyarah area, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on Oct. 19, during an operation by Iraqi forces against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists to retake the main hub city. (Yasi Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of Iraqi forces drive their armoured vehicle, as they head to the frontline on Oct. 18 near the town of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, during the operation to recapture the city from the Islamic State group. Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces were making gains on the Islamic State group in Mosul in an offensive US President Barack Obama warned would be a “difficult fight”. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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A peshmerga fighter looks out of the entrance of an underground tunnel built by Islamic State fighters, Oct. 18. The Kurdish forces found the tunnel in the town of Badana that was liberated from the Islamic State group on Monday. The fighters built tunnels under residential areas so they could move without being seen from above to avoid airstrikes. (Bram Janssen/Associated Press)
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Kurdish peshmerga troops fire at Islamic State positions as they move toward the Iraqi town of Badana Pichwk on Oct. 17. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)
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Iraqi soldiers walk on a road as smoke billows from the Qayyarah area, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on Oct. 19, during an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists to retake the main hub city. (Yasi Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
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Displaced Iraqis from the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, who fled fighting in the Mosul area walk towards Iraqi security forces on Oct. 18, after they liberated the village from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of Iraqi forces look at a MRAP armoured vehicle with an image of an American flag overlaid with a bald eagle, at the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on Oct. 18, during the operation to recapture the city from the Islamic State group. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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Members of the Iraqi forces inspect a tunnel on Oct. 18, inside a building in the Shaqouli village, about 35 kms east of Mosul, after they’ve recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. With the crucial battle in its second day, Iraqi commanders said progress was being made as fighters pushed on two main fronts against the jihadists’ last stronghold in Iraq (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
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Sunni Arab fighters, many of whom fled Mosul when the Islamic State group captured the city two years ago, wait at their base near the Mosul Dam near Karaj, Iraq, Oct. 18. Their unit is now slated to take part in the liberation of Mosul, which was once home to more than two million residents and is the biggest city captured by the Islamic State group. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)
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Iraqi forces deploy in the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, on Oct.18, after they liberated it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. Tens of thousands of Iraqi forces were making gains on the Islamic State group in Mosul in an offensive US President Barack Obama warned would be a “difficult fight.” (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi soldiers look on as smoke rises from the Qayyarah area, as Iraqi forces take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (Yasi Akgul/AFP/Getty Images)
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A helicopter prowling the perimeter of the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqis wait at a check point on Oct. 18, near the town of Qayyarah, south of Mosul, during Iraqi forces’ operation to recapture the city from the Islamic State group. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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Kurdish security forces take up a position as they fight overlooking the Islamic State-controlled in villages surrounding Mosul, in Khazer, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 17. (Associated Press)
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Displaced Iraqis from the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, who fled fighting in the Mosul area, walk towards Iraqi security forces on Oct. 18. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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A peshmerga fighter walks through a tunnel made by Islamic State fighters, Oct. 18. The Kurdish forces found the tunnel in the town of Badana that was liberated from the Islamic State group on Monday. The fighters built tunnels under residential areas so they could move without being seen from above in order to avoid airstrikes. (Bram Janssen/Associated Press)
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Displaced Iraqis from the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, who fled fighting in the Mosul area walk towards security forces on Oct. 18. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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An Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighter stands inside of a building on Oct. 18, on the frontline in the Shaqouli village, about 35 kms east of Mosul, after they’ve recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. With the crucial battle in its second day, Iraqi commanders said progress was being made as fighters pushed on two main fronts against the jihadists’ last stronghold in Iraq. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
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Displaced Iraqis from the Bajwaniyah village, about 30 kms south of Mosul, who fled fighting in the Mosul area are helped a security forces member on October 18. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi security forces gesture in Qayyarah, during an operation to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 19. (Alaa Al-Marjani/Reuters)
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A woman poses at a refugee camp housing Iraqi families who fled fighting in the Mosul area on Oct. 17, in the northeastern town of al-Hol in Syria’s Hasakeh province. The battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from jihadists could unleash a massive humanitarian crisis, potentially pushing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes as winter sets in. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
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A peshmerga fighter walks through the kitchen of an underground tunnel made by Islamic State fighters, Oct. 18. The Kurdish forces found the tunnel in the town of Badana that was liberated from the Islamic State group on Monday. (Bram Janssen/Associated press)
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A Kurdish peshmerga soldier talks on his phone as he relaxes in a village recently recaptured from ISIS during the battle to retake Mosul, on Oct. 18, in Bartella, near Mosul in Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Kurdish peshmerga soldiers stand around a tunnel dug by ISIS in a house recently recaptured by the Kurds during the battle to retake Mosul, on Oct. 18, in Bartella, near Mosul in Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
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A Kurdish peshmerga soldier stands in a tunnel dug by ISIS in a village recently recaptured by the Kurds during the battle to retake Mosul, on Oct. 18, in Bartella, near Mosul in Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Displaced Iraqi children who fled Mosul play at a refugee camp in Duhok, Iraq, Oct. 16. (Ari Jalal/Reuters)
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Members of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters inspect a building on Oct. 18, in the Shaqouli village, about 35 kms east of Mosul, after they’ve recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)
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A Kurdish peshmerga fighter leans out of his military vehicle which has taken several direct hits from ISIS snipers including on the windscreen on Oct. 18, in the small town of Bartella near Mosul, Iraq. (Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers inspect the body of an alleged Islamic State (IS) fighter in the recently recaptured city of Hamdaniyah, east of Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 18. (Ahmed Jalil/EPA)
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A French army Rafale fighter jet takes off from the deck of France’s aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, in the Meditarranean Sea. Seven French Rafale jets, from the Air Force and the Navy, carried out airstrikes south of Mosul overnight on Oct. 15-16 with SCALP missiles that destroyed a factory making IEDs (improvised explosive devices.) (ECPAD/AFP/Getty Images)
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A child stands in front of makeshift tents at a refugee camp housing Iraqi families who fled fighting in the Mosul area on Oct. 17, in the northeastern town of al-Hol in Syria’s Hasakeh province. (Delil Souleiman/AFP/Getty Images)
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Peshmerga forces gather in the east of Mosul to attack Islamic State militants in Mosul, Iraq, Oct. 17. (Azad Lashkari/Reuters)
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An Iraqi policeman tries on a gasmask at the Qayyarah military base, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on Oct. 16, as they prepare for an offensive to retake Mosul, the last IS-held city in the country. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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Iraqi forces deploy in the area of al-Shourah, some 45 kms south of Mosul, as they advance towards the city to retake it from the Islamic State (IS) group jihadists, on Oct. 17. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
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