Iraqi Kurdish forces have retaken five villages east of Islamic State (I.S.)-held Mosul in an operation launched early Sunday morning, according to an official statement.
The operation aims to “clear several more villages” and is “one of many shaping operations” that will increase pressure on Mosul, the Kurdish region Security Council, an umbrella group of the multiple security forces in Iraq’s Kurdish region, said in a statement.
Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Dedewan Khurshid Tofiq described the operation as “ongoing.”
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 statement said the area cleared is about 50 square kilometers.
U.S.-led coalition planes are supporting the operation and have destroyed a car bomb, according to the security statement.
Iraqi forces are beginning 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 I.S. since 2014. It remains the last major urban stronghold of the militant group in Iraq.