iStock/Thinkstock(BAGHDAD) — Hours into the joint operation to liberate the city of Mosul from ISIS control, Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani said military forces have regained control of a 200-square-kilometer area of the city.
Officials said 10 villages have been freed, and a few more are expected to be rescued by Tuesday morning, depending on how the fighting goes overnight.
U.S. and coalition military forces conducted four airstrikes near Mosul Sunday ahead of the battle, hitting three ISIS units and destroying many tactical resources, such as tunnel entrances, supply caches, mortar systems, artillery, vehicles and a trench tunnel network.
As of now, 10 Kurdish casualties have been reported.
A 30,000-strong combined Iraqi and Kurdish force launched the offensive Monday morning from the east, moving to surround the city and cut off ISIS’ access to outside resources.
At one point, ABC News reporters on the front lines witnessed a lone vehicle speeding across a valley toward their position. The car erupted into flames moments later, but the cause of the blast was not immediately clear. Car bombs are a major tool for ISIS and could play a large role in this fight.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force operation, said commanders cannot predict how long it will take for the Iraqi Security Forces to defeat ISIS.
“But we know they will succeed, just as they did in Baiji, in Ramadi, in Fallujah, and more recently in Qayyarah and Sharqat,” he said.
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