The Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces launch military operations in Khazar village, 35 kilometers south of Mosul, Iraq, on Oct. 18, 2016. Iraqi security forces on Tuesday recaptured more villages from the Islamic State (IS) militants, as part of a major offensive aimed at liberating the city of Mosul, the last major IS stronghold in Iraq, a security source said. (Xinhua/Jaser Jawad)
MOSUL, Iraq, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Tuesday recaptured more villages from the Islamic State (IS) militants, as part of a major offensive aimed at liberating the city of Mosul, the last major IS stronghold in Iraq, a security source said.
On the west side of the Tigris River, the Iraqi forces and allied paramilitary Sunni and Shiite Hashd Shaabi units, backed by Iraqi and U.S-led coalition aircraft, recaptured the villages of Lihoud, Abbasiyah, Khuder al-Yas, Bajwaniyah and Tal al-Samen, while moving north to the IS-held town of Shoura, some 30km south of Mosul, a security source from the Operations Command of Nineveh Liberation told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
On the east side of the river, the army forces also cleared several villages while moving to the IS-held town of Hamdaniyah, some 40 km southeast of Mosul, the source said.
On Tuesday afternoon, the troops arrived at the southwestern edge of Hamdaniyah and shelled IS positions inside the town in preparation for a battle to recapture it.
Meanwhile, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces east of Mosul suspended fighting and advance, as they are reorganizing their ranks to prepare for more battles, the source said.
Early on Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces, announced the start of a major offensive to retake the country's second largest city from the extremist IS group.
"Today I declare the launch of the operation of liberating Nineveh province. The time of victory has come, and the moment of the great victory is approaching," Abadi said in a brief address aired on Al Iraqiya.
Mosul, some 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.