MOSUL, Iraq, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi paramilitary units of Hashd Shaabi units on Monday freed eight villages from Islamic State (IS) militants on the fourth day of an operation aimed at driving out the extremist militants from the areas near the Iraqi-Syrian border in west of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi units, backed by the army's helicopters, freed the villages which are scattered in north and south of the IS-held town of al-Qairwan, located in the rugged sprawling area southwest of Tal Afar and south of Sinjar, the Hashd Shaabi said in a statement.
In addition, the Hashd Shaabi units entered the village of al-Mabhal in north of al-Qairwan and are now fighting heavy clashes with IS militants holed up in the village, the statement added.
Meanwhile, the clashes continued for the second day at the edge of the nearby village of Tal al-Banat in north of al-Qairwan, where some of IS local leaders are believed to be holed up and using the villagers as human shields, the statement said.
The units are now 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 units have fought sporadic clashes against IS militants and killed 39 of them, including some suicide bombers, along with destroying four car bombs and seizing three others and defused them before the militants blew them up, it said.
Explosive experts also defused 50 roadside bombs around al-Qairwan town, in addition to a booby-trapped house in one of the villages, the statement added.
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.