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>> Kurdish forces are closing in on Islamic State's main stronghold in Iraq, setting out in the early hours of Sunday to do battle near Mosul. As the day wore on, the Peshmerga claiming to have freed 11 villages from IS control. Reuters reporter Hamid Saif was with the Kurds.
>> As the Kurdish Peshmerga forces were advancing through the first few villages, there was little to no resistance from the insurgents. However, as they pushed on further north, resistance became more and more intense. They were pelting the convoys with mortar strikes, and several car bombs.>> Civilians fleeing towards the Kurdish forces stripped to the waist to show they're not carrying explosives
>> The Kurds continuing their advance towards Mosul aiming to encircle the IS bastion. They also want to open up a vital route into the city.>> The goal of the operation was to reach the Gwer or the Gwer bridge, which is 40 kilometers to the southeast of Mosul.
Peshmerga forces managed to reach the bridge and are starting to repair it in order to launch the operation to recapture Mosul in the future.>> Iraqi President Haider Al-Abadi has vowed to retake the city before year end, but it won't be easy.
sul is strategically and symbolically vital to IS.
It was from the city's grand mosque that leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdad first declared a caliphate. Defeat there would all but mark the end of IS in the country. No one expects the militants to accept that without a fight.