Kurdish fighters along with an elite unit of the Iraqi armed forces mounted a fresh offensive to oust Islamic State (Isis) jihadists rom villages near Mosul, the group's last major stronghold in Iraq.

According to AFP, Kurdish Peshmerga forces supported by US-led coalition launched a fresh attack on villages near Bashiqa on Thursday (20 October). At around 6am local time (4am BST), forces attacked villages held by IS (Daesh) in the north and east of Mosul. Fighters from the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) were part of the attack in the village of Nawaran.

In a statement, the Kurdish general military command said, "The objectives are to clear a number of nearby villages and secure control of strategic areas to further restrict ISIL's movements." It added that the offensive had three fronts and was "designed to tighten the noose" around the jihadist group in Mosul after gains made by the government and Kurdish forces in the east and south of the city.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces are working on recovering all outlying areas before they launch their final offensive to retake the city.

Several Humvees of the elite Counter Terrorism Service fitted with machine guns were headed towards Bartella, on the eastern side of Mosul, according to Reuters.

On the northern side, Kurdish fighters had reportedly downed an unmanned drone which came from the Isis lines in Nawaran village. It was not yet clear whether the drone was carrying explosives or it was just surveying the area. Halgurd Hasan, one of the Kurdish fighters stationed in a position overseeing the northern plain of Mosul said, "There have been times when they dropped explosives."

Ali Awni, a Kurdish officer who apparently had a handheld radio receiver opened on a frequency used by the extremist group told Reuters, "They [IS militants] are giving targets for their mortars. Liberating Mosul is important for the security of Kurdistan. We will have to fight them in the mind as well, to defeat their ideology."

Mosul offensive
A member of the Iraqi forces in Bajwaniyah Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP