At day break on Monday morning Iraqi soldiers gathered on a quiet suburban street in the east of the city of Mosul, laughing and joking as they prepared to go into battle with Islamic State fighters. Morale was high, even as the militants on the other side of the front line signaled that they too were awake by sending a volley of mortars towards the waiting line of vehicles.
This was the beginning of an operation to wrest control of the last few neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul under ISIS control. “God willing we will reach the river today,” said Staff Colonel Muhanad Saad, the Commander of Iraq’s Counter Terror Service (CTS) 1st battalion, as he readied his men for the charge. A large man with a drooping mustache and lopsided gait, Muhanad described how his men surprised ISIS by retaking the neighborhood of al-Muthana on Jan. 6 under the cover of darkness.
Continue to TIME article: http://time.com/4640638/mosul-iraq-isis-islamic-state-freedom/