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FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2014 file photo, a Kurdish Peshmerga fighter uses binoculars to check on Islamic State group's positions on the outskirts of Makhmour, 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq. Two years ago, just weeks after the fall of Mosul, an Islamic State group push deeper into Iraq’s Kurdistan region triggered Iraq’s Peshmerga forces to retreat and the U.S.-led coalition to drop the first airstrikes in the fight against the militant group. Since then coalition planes have dropped more than 9,400 bombs on Iraq. The munitions, often called in to closely support advancing forces on the ground, have dramatically changed the fight against IS, allowing Iraqi forces to slowly claw back cities, towns, supply lines and infrastructure. But the fight _ that continues to be largely waged from the air _ has also leveled entire neighborhoods, displaced millions and redrawn the Iraqi map. (AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic, File)

Kurdish forces are trying to take back ISIS's last major stronghold in Iraq


Backed by U.S. coalition airstrikes, Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq are advancing on ISIS-held Mosul. 

Their operation began around 5:30 a.m Sunday. 

Kurdish fighters say they've retaken five villages east of Mosul.

Recapturing Mosul would represent a major victory in the fight against ISIS. It's Iraq's second largest city and has been under ISIS control since June 2014. It was there that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a new "Islamic caliphate."

In this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016 photo, soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces war fake beards after playing the part of Islamic State militants during a training exercise to prepare for the operation to re-take Mosul from IS, in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's leaders have repeatedly promised that Mosul — which has been in the hands of IS militants for more than two years now — will be retaken this year. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

The Iraqi government has said it plans to take back Mosul by the end of the year. Already, it's made major progress.  

The terrorist organization controls  less than 10 percent of Iraqi territory, down from 40 percent at its peak, according to the country's defense minister. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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