Raging fires and smoke marked a satellite image on Thursday of Mosul, Iraq, revealing the main thrust of the battle to retake the Islamic State stronghold. Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushed toward the city on three fronts, aided by American advisers and airstrikes.
The smoke plumes in this image are from bombings, American airstrikes and smoke screens created by Islamic State militants, who have tried to conceal their movements from coalition aircraft.
The main push toward Mosul is coming from the east, where Iraqi and Kurdish troops captured several villages in the first days of the campaign.
Iraqi counterterrorism forces, supported by American advisers, came under heavy attack from suicide car bombs and improvised mines as they advanced through the village of Bartella. An American service member was killed by a roadside bomb near there.
Kurdish fighters were securing villages on two different fronts. On the first day of the assault, a pesh merga force set out to clear a string of 10 villages east of Mosul.
On Thursday, a larger force north of Mosul started pushing toward the city in three main groups, starting from the villages of Tel Iskuf, Narawan and Bashiqa. Artillery barrages and coalition airstrikes were called in to soften the Islamic State’s defenses, but roadside bombs were dense along main routes.
The battle for Mosul, which is defended by as many as 4,500 Islamic State fighters, could take weeks or months. Iraqi and Kurdish forces are pushing now to surround Mosul and cut off escape routes before they enter the city.
According to a historian inside Mosul, the Islamic State has bombed the provincial government building, increased its presence in the streets and placed car bombs and booby traps across the city.