IS likely to use chemical weapons in Mosul

Harjit Sajjan stands in the House of Commons during Question Period Oct. 18 2016

Iraqi government forces, with air and ground support from the US -led coalition, launched an offensive on Monday to drive Islamic State from Mosul, the militants' last major stronghold in the country.

Iraq's Kurdish fighters, also known as the peshmerga, largely paused their advance, according to commanders stationed along the front to Mosul's east, consolidating gains from the previous day.

Entering Iraq's second-largest city will be fraught with challenges.

Displaced Iraqi Christians take part in celebrations on October 18, 2016 in Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, to mark the liberation of Qaraqosh, that was Iraq's largest Christian town before it was overrun by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) jihadist group in August 2014. The Islamic State had targeted local forces, not US or coalition troops. The Islamic State claimed to have carried out 12 suicide attacks on the first day of the offensive, according to its affiliated news agency, Amaq. There are around 40,000 Kurdish forces, which are pushing into Mosul from east of the city.

While the Iraqi coalition is overwhelmingly superior in terms of numbers and firepower - with forces numbering around 100,000 and air support from roughly 90 coalition and Iraqi planes - "ISIS is showing that it's very willing to put up a fight", Paton Walsh said.

In reality, the Iraqi army is only acting as a facade in this conflict.

Taking over Mosul is crucial for the future of Iraq, Matthews said. If, of course, the coalition of Iraqi government, Shiite militias backed by Iranians, and the Americans were to be repelled, or become bogged down by IS resistance in Mosul, the lesson will be the opposite, making this campaign a high roll of the dice.

"Right now we are waiting for the peshmerga to finish their job", said Obaidi.

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Ankara has been embroiled in a spat with Baghdad over the presence of Turkish soldiers in Bashiqa in Nineveh province, northeast of Mosul, which has threatened to complicate the coordination between the two key U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS.

Most of the residents of the village, which is about 50 kilometers southeast of Mosul near the Great Zab River, were still in fear of the militant Islamist group.

Demining teams were working to clear roads laced with booby traps and explosives.

Residents who have endured more than two years of militant rule describe a city under siege, and they say a new sense of terror has set in since Iraq announced the start of a long-anticipated operation to liberate its second-largest city.

Iraqi forces have launched operations to retake Mosul, a city whose capture by the Islamic State group two years ago left the country on the brink of collapse, the prime minister said Monday. Columns of Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by USA -led airstrikes slowly advanced on Mosu.

Advancing in armoured convoys across the dusty plains surrounding Mosul, forces moved into villages defended by pockets of IS fighters after intensive aerial bombardment. Despite their purported role away from the front lines, US troops have engaged in combat and died while serving in Iraq in recent months. The city is being pincered from three directions.

In Washington, US president Barack Obama said retaking Mosul would require a "difficult fight".

"Those who say Turkey has no business in Mosul have gotten their answer", he said.