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The offensive to seize back Mosul from ISIS is going faster than planned, Iraq's prime minister said on Thursday, as Iraqi and Kurdish forces launched a new military operation to clear villages on the city's outskirts.Howitzer and mortar fire started at dawn, hitting a group of villages held by ISIS about 10-20 km (6-12 miles) from Mosul, while helicopters flew overhead, according to Reuters reporters at two frontline locations north and east of Mosul.Mosul is the last big stronghold held by ISIS in Iraq and around five times the size of any other city the group has held.In some cases, ISIS fighters appear to have fled without putting up a fight.Daesh is an Arabic acronym for ISIS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, which swept into Mosul and other parts of northern Iraq in 2014 and has used extreme violence to administer a self-proclaimed caliphate there and in parts of neighboring Syria.
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