The battle to retake control of the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State has begun.
Convoys of Iraqi and Kurdish forces were moving east of the city into the early hours of Monday, as US-led coalition airstrikes sent plumes of smoke into the air amid the sound of heavy artillery rounds.
Some 2,000 Iraqi special forces will be supported by four brigades of the regular Iraqi Army, 15,000 Sunni militia, 15,000 Kurdish Peshmerga and a few thousand Shia militia.
They are taking the fight to an estimated 3,000 IS fighters in the city, with snipers sent in first to fight street-by-street.
Sky’s Defence Correspondent Alistair Bunkall said: “The fear is that Mosul will be rigged with explosives.
“The other fear is chemical weapons. There is no doubt Islamic State has the capability and it’s possible the group has been saving the weapons for ‘D-Day’.
Announcing the operation on Iraq’s Iraqiya TV channel, Prime Minister Haider al Abadi said: “The time of victory has come and operations to liberate Mosul have started.
“The force leading liberation operations is the brave Iraqi army with the national police and they are the ones that will enter Mosul, not others,” he said on state television.
Addressing the residents of the city he added: “Today I declare the start of these victorious operations to free you from the violence and terrorism of Daesh (IS).”
A statement released by the General Command of Peshmerga Forces of Kurdistan said: “At approximately 0600hrs on 17 October 2016 a large-scale coordinated operation was launched by Peshmerga Forces in Khazir, East of Mosul, with Iraqi security forces… as the first step to clear Nineva province from IS terrorists.