Iraqi Kurds Liberate String of ISIS-held Villages East of Mosul

Territory captured could serve as a staging ground for the expected offensive to retake Mosul itself.

Hundreds of civilians flee villages outside Mosul the day after Iraqi Kurdish forces launch an operation east of Islamic State-held Mosul on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.
Susannah George, AP

Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces say they have completed the operation to retake a string of villages east of the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group, an advance that is part of laying the groundwork ahead of the key battle for Iraq's second-largest city.

Brig. Gen. Dedewan Khurshid Tofiq said on Tuesday that a bridge, taken the day before and leading to southeastern Mosul, could facilitate a troop buildup along an eastern Mosul front. Tofiq says the bridge needs to be repaired first.

Iraqi forces and the Kurdish troops are seeking to encircle Mosul, which has been under ISIS control for more than two years. It's the last major ISIS urban stronghold in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has pledged to defeat ISIS in Iraq this year.