IRBIL, Iraq – 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.