MOSUL, Iraq, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces on Saturday continue fighting IS in the western side of Mosul, while the paramilitary units of Hashd Shaabi retook 11 villages in an operation to free areas near the Iraqi-Syrian border from the extremist militants, the Iraqi military said.
The army's 16th Infantry Division completely controlled the Hawi al-Kanisa area in northwest of the city of Mosul after fierce clashes against IS militants, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, from the Joint Operations Command (JOC), said in a statement.
Yarallah also said that the elite forces of the federal police, known as Rapid Response, backed by the army's armored and infantry forces continued heavy clashes with IS militants at the edge of July 17 neighborhood, which is one of the main IS redoubts in the western side of Mosul.
Meanwhile, the federal police and its Rapid Response forces have been fighting heavy clashes against IS militants in Bab al-Toub, al-Farouq and Bab al-Jadid neighborhoods at the southern and southwestern edges of the heavily-populated city center, Lt. Gen. Raid Shakir Jawdat, the commander of the federal police forces, said in a statement.
The troops continued their slow progress toward the old areas around the historical al-Nuri Mosque in the middle of Mosul's old city center because of the stiff resistance of the extremist militants in the narrow streets of the densely-populated city center, where roughly 400,000 residents are believed to still be trapped under IS rule.
Also in the day, the predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi units, backed by the army's helicopters, continued their advance for the second day in west of Mosul to free the vast IS-held areas near the border with Syria, including the towns of al-Qairwan and Baaj.
The paramilitary units defeated IS militants in 11 villages around the IS-held town of al-Qairwan, which locates in the rugged sprawling area southwest of Tal Afar and south of Sinjar, the Hashd Shaabi said in a statement.
The units are now stationed in areas located only three kilometers away al-Qairwan town and are surrounding the town from three sides, isolating the IS-held town and cutting off its supply routes on the main roads between the town and Tal Afar and Sinjar, the statement said.
The paramilitary fighters fought sporadic fierce clashes with IS militants and killed many militants, while the Iraqi helicopter gunships destroyed two IS booby-trapped cars and one of their armored vehicles, according to the statement.
In addition, an Iraqi helicopter was shot by IS ground fire while providing air support to the paramilitary units who were fighting in Tal al-Banat village, but the crew the chopper managed to land safely away from the battlefield, the JOC said in a separate statement.
The operation would enable the Hashd Shaabi units to secure the border areas between Iraq and neighboring Syria and cut off the IS supply routes between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of IS self-declared caliphate.
The operation came as the Iraqi security forces, backed by anti-IS international coalition, are carrying out a major offensive to dislodge IS militants from their major stronghold in the western side of Mosul in northern Iraq.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital 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.