Iraqis push toward IS-held Mosul in long-awaited offensive

KHAZER, Iraq - The long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from the Islamic State group began Monday with a volley of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery bombardments on a cluster of villages along the edge of Iraq's historic Nineveh plain east of the militant-held city.

Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga fighters led the initial assault, advancing slowly across open fields littered with booby-trapped explosives as plumes of black and orange smoke rose overhead — the opening phase of an unprecedented campaign expected to take weeks if not months, and involve more than 25,000 troops.

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