US

Peshmerga launch operation to clear villages east of Mosul

  • In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 photo, a soldier from the 1st Battalion of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces in the role of an Islamic State militant runs through green smoke during a training exercise to prepare for the operation to re-take Mosul from IS, in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

    In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 photo, a soldier from the 1st Battalion of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces in the role of an Islamic State militant runs through green smoke during a training exercise to prepare for the operation to re-take Mosul from IS, in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 photo, a soldier from the 1st Battalion of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces takes part in during a training exercise to prepare for the operation to re-take Mosul from Islamic State militants, in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

    In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 photo, a soldier from the 1st Battalion of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces takes part in during a training exercise to prepare for the operation to re-take Mosul from Islamic State militants, in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 photo, a soldier from the 1st Battalion of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces listens to an address by his commander after a training exercise to prepare for the operation to re-take Mosul from Islamic State militants, in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

    In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 photo, a soldier from the 1st Battalion of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces listens to an address by his commander after a training exercise to prepare for the operation to re-take Mosul from Islamic State militants, in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)  (The Associated Press)

Iraq's Kurdish peshmerga forces say they have launched an operation aimed at retaking a cluster of villages from the Islamic Sate group east of militant-held Mosul.

Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Dedewan Khurshid Tofiq says Sunday that "Four villages have been liberated so far."

Footage filmed by Rudaw, a local television network, showed smoke rising from a village in the distance as armored vehicles pushed across a field.

The operation aims to begin to encircle Mosul before the full-scale offensive to retake the city. South of Mosul, Iraqi army forces are working to clear villages around a recently recaptured air base.

Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, has been held by IS since 2014. It remains the last major urban stronghold of the militant group in Iraq.