Internationally-backed Iraqi forces have begun shelling parts of west Mosul. The offensive has been reported by local residents.
Preparative attacks are carried out for opening up a new front against hardline militant group ISIS, seven weeks into a difficult campaign to drive the militants from the city.
Federal police forces, stationed a few miles south of Mosul, on the west bank of the Tigris River that divides the city, have long said they aim to advance towards the airport on the southwestern edge, reported Reuters.
Military commanders hope that by opening a second front within the city they can increase pressure on the few thousand extremists who have deployed suicide bombers, snipers and militant cells against elite Iraqi troops in eastern districts.
An audio statement from ISIS’ new spokesman on Monday urged the militants in Tal Afar to stand their ground.
“Destroy their vehicles, raid them … in their shelters so they can taste some of your misery and do not talk yourselves into fleeing,” Abi al-Hassan al-Muhajer said in an audio recording posted online.
Mosul is by far the largest city under ISIS control and driving the militants out would roll back the self-styled caliphate which it declared in Iraq and Syria 2014 after seizing large parts of both countries.