Iraqi troops, backed by US-led airstrikes, have begun a major attack to drive the Daesh militia from its stronghold in the northern city of Mosul, an army spokesman said Thursday.
Brigadier Yehia Rasul said that the operation code-named al-Fatah (Conquest) started at dawn with the initial aim of demolishing Daesh facilities in the city.
"Since the early hours of the operation, Iraqi troops were able to liberate a number of villages and raise the Iraqi flag there," he told state television al-Iraqiya without giving details.
Another army commander put the number of recaptured villages at four and located south of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.
"The Iraqi forces killed dozens of Daesh elements and forced others to flee into Mosul," chief of Mosul operations Major General Nejm al-Jabouri told dpa.
He gave no figures about possible casualties among the government forces.
Mosul has been under Daesh's control since the radical Sunni group swept across Iraq's northern areas in mid-2014.
In December 2015, Iraq regained the western and mostly Sunni city of Ramadi, marking the first major setback for the al-Qaeda breakaway group in months.
By Kadhem al-Attabi