Peshmerga forces advance on Iraq’s Mosul

– Villages fall to Peshmerga advancing on Daesh-held city from northeast along three separate fronts

– Peshmerga forces on Thursday captured several villages northeast of Mosul on the fourth day of a wide-ranging military campaign to “liberate” the city from the Daesh terrorist group, according to military sources, reported Anadolu Agency.

“Our forces liberated 12 villages on three axes along which they are advancing on Mosul from the northeast,” Younis Koran, a Peshmerga officer, told Anadolu Agency.

Earlier this week, Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, launched a much-anticipated offensive to retake Mosul — Daesh’s last stronghold in northern Iraq, which was overrun by the terrorist group in June 2014.

Six of the villages captured Thursday are located along the Nawran axis, five along the Bashiqa axis and one along the Tel Saqf axis, Koran said.

“With the liberation of Khorsabad village on the Nawran axis, Peshmerga forces now stand 12 kilometers [7 miles] north of Mosul,” he added.

According to a Peshmerga source who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media, the advance is being supported by U.S.-led coalition air power.

Odai al-Hamdani, an Iraqi army officer, told Anadolu Agency that Iraqi counter-terrorism forces had arrived in the Al-Khazir area around 40 km (25 miles) east of Mosul before another planned advance on the Daesh-held city.

In a related development, the Defense Ministry announced that another seven villages to the south of Mosul had fallen to security forces on Wednesday.

“Federal Police forces advancing from the south along the Qayyarah axis managed to retake the villages of Al-Bijwaniyah, Al-Bijwaniyah al-Thalitha, Al-Daraj, Al-Bikr al-Owla, Al-Bikr al-Thaniya, Al-Mankouba and Al-Raflah,” the ministry said in a statement.

It went on to assert that Daesh militants had sustained “heavy losses” during the confrontations.

On Wednesday, the Interior Ministry announced that Iraqi forces had captured a total of 352 sq km (136 sq miles) of territory south of Mosul since the operation formally began late Sunday evening.

After Daesh captured Mosul — Iraq’s second-largest city — it overran large swathes of territory in the country’s northern and western regions. Recent months have seen the Iraqi army, backed by local allies on the ground and coalition jets, retake territory. Nevertheless, the terror group remains in control of several parts of the country.