Iraqi government and Kurdish forces on Tuesday announced progress in the first 24 hours of an offensive to take back Mosul , Islamic State’s last city stronghold in Iraq.
The Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces began moving in the direction of Mosul at dawn on Monday under air cover from the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition.
A total of 20 villages were taken from the militants east, south and southeast of Mosul, according to statements from the army Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced before dawn on Monday the start of the offensive on Mosul, two years after Iraq’s second-largest city fell to the militants.
The fall of Mosul would effectively signal the defeat of the ultra-hardline Sunni group in Iraq. Islamic State also controls parts of Syria.
The Iraqi army is attacking Mosul on the southern and southeastern fronts, while the Peshmerga carried out their operation on the eastern front.
The Peshmerga, who are also deployed north and northeast of the city, said they secured “a significant stretch” of the 80 km (50 mile) road between Erbil, their capital, and Mosul, about an hour drive to the west.
Coalition warplanes attacked 17 Islamic State positions in support of the Peshmerga operation in the heavily mined area, the Kurdish statement said, adding that at least four car bombs were destroyed.
There was no indication about the number of military or civilian casualties in the Iraqi or Kurdish statements.
Mosul, with a current population of 1.5 million, is the largest city still under control of the militants, followed by Raqqa, in neighboring Syria. Islamic State declared a “caliphate” over parts of the two countries in 2014.