Baghdad: Iraqi paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units on Thursday initiated a new advance to recapture areas near the Iraqi-Syrian border west of Mosul in an operation to dislodge the Islamic State militant group from the Iraqi side of the border.
They began their progress to recapture the IS-held town of Baaj, about 25 km west of the newly-freed town of al-Qairwan, Xinhua news agency cited a military statement as saying.
The two towns are located in the rugged sprawling area about 100 km west of Mosul.
In the early morning hours, the paramilitary units, backed by the army's helicopter gunships, freed four villages in west of al-Qairwan as they are advancing westward in the open land to free Baaj.
The Hashd Shaabi forces have surrounded three more militant-seized villages in the area between al-Qairwan and Baaj, the statement said.
The helicopter gunships destroyed a booby-trapped car during the fighting with the IS, and are searching for seven IS vehicles carrying heavy machine guns spotted near one of the villages, it added.
The Hashd Shaabi units on Tuesday liberated al-Qairwan and many villages around the town from the IS and announced that the forces had ended the first stage of major offensive designed to secure the border areas with neighbouring Syria and cut off the IS' supply routes between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the IS' self-declared caliphate.
The forces are advancing to free the villages and take control of the IS supply routes around Baaj to isolate it and liberate the town.
Furthermore, the operation came as Iraqi security forces, backed by the anti-IS international coalition, were simultaneously conducting a major offensive to dislodge the IS from their major stronghold in western Mosul.
Mosul, 400 km north of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling the group to control parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.
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Updated Date: May 25, 2017 15:49:32 IST