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Kurds announce progress in operation to degrade IS east of Mosul
[BAGHDAD] Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces said they captured nine villages held by Islamic State in an operation to degrade the militants' defenses east of Mosul, their last city stronghold in Iraq.
The 24-hour operation was the first that Kurds carried out as part of the offensive on Mosul announced Monday before dawn by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, with the backing of the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition.
In a statement late on Monday, the Peshmerga said the operation allowed them to secure "a significant stretch" of the 80-kilometre 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.
Mosul, with a current population of 1.5 million, is the largest city still under control of the militants, followed by Raqqa, in neighbouring Syria. Islamic State declared a"caliphate" over parts of the two countries in 2014.