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

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KHAZER, Iraq - Columns of Iraqi and Kurdish forces backed by U.S.-led airstrikes slowly advanced on Mosul from several directions on Monday, launching a long-awaited operation to retake Iraq's second largest city from the Islamic State group.

As airstrikes sent plumes of smoke into the air and heavy artillery rounds rumbled, troops pushed into abandoned farming villages on the flat plains outside the city. But they were slowed by roadside bombs and by suicide car and truck bombs hurled at them by the militants.

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