The US military says Iraqi forces have retaken 40 villages from the Islamic State group near Mosul since a massive operation to drive the militants from the city began last week. US Air Force Brig Gen Matthew C Isler said Friday that Iraqi troops are consolidating gains made east and south of the city earlier this week, but insisted “momentum” was still on their side.
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The fight to retake Mosul, which fell to IS in a matter of days in the summer of 2014, is the largest military operation undertaken in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. Isler says the U.S.-led coalition has stepped up airstrikes against the militants, and is carrying out three times as many as it did during previous campaigns to drive IS from other Iraqi cities.