BAGHDAD, April 27 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi paramilitary units, known as Hashd Shaabi, retook control of the town of Hatra in the south of Iraq's northern province of Nineveh on Thursday, after clashes with Islamic State (IS) militants, the paramilitary units said.
"The paramilitary fighters, backed by the army's helicopter gunships, completely freed the small town of Hatra after they drove out the IS militants from the town, some 100 km southwest of Mosul," the media office of the predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi said in a statement.
Hundreds of the Hashd Shaabi fighters entered the town from the southern edge and fought sporadic clashes against the IS militants while they freed its neighborhoods, the media office said.
Afterwards, the Hashd Shaabi fighters launched a clearing campaign in the buildings of the town, searching for suspected IS militants and defusing roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings, the statement said.
The recapture came on the third day of an operation launched by the Hashd Shaabi units to dislodge IS militants from their desert stronghold in the town of Hatra, which bears the same name as the damaged ancient city of Hatra.
On Wednesday, the paramilitary units freed the IS-held archaeological site after clashes with its militants, according to an earlier statement by the Hashd Shaabi media office.
The 2,000-year-old Hatra archaeological site is well-known for its high walls full of inscriptions, watchtowers and Hellenistic and Roman temples with Eastern decorative features.
The ancient city was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987, the first such site in Iraq.
In March 2015, the Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Ministry said IS militants stole and destroyed the ancient Hatra city.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.
The recapture of Hatra area came as the Iraqi security forces, backed by anti-IS international coalition, are carrying out a major offensive to drive out the IS militants from the western side of Mosul, which represents IS last major urban stronghold in Iraq.