MOSUL, Iraq, May 18 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units retook control of a small military airbase and eight villages from Islamic State (IS) militants on Thursday, a week after the units launched an operation aiming to dislodge the extremist militants from areas beside the Iraqi-Syrian border in western Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi units, backed by army helicopters, freed the airbase in south of the town of al-Qairwan, which located in the rugged sprawling area south of Sinjar, about 100 km west of Mosul, said the Hashd Shaabi units in a statement.
The paramilitary units also freed eight villages after sporadic heavy clashes with IS militants in north of IS-held al-Qairwan, the statement said.
The clashes resulted in the killing of 54 IS militants and the destroying an IS headquarters and many of their posts, along with detonating a booby-trapped car, the statement added.
Meanwhile, Mahir Abdul-Hussein Attya, a cameraman for the Hashd Shaabi, was killed in the clashes near the town of al-Qairwan during the day, while Ahmed Ghanim, a broadcast engineer, was wounded when his TV broadcast car was hit by a mortar round in a separate incident, the Hashd Shaabi said in another statement.
The units currently surround the town from three sides, cutting off IS supply routes along the main roads between the IS-held towns of Tal Afar and Sinjar. The units are preparing to free al-Qairwan town from IS militants in order to advance further to the west to liberate the other militants-seized town of Baaj, 25 km west of al-Qairwan.
The operation enabled the Hashd Shaabi units to secure the border areas between Iraq and neighboring Syria and cut off the IS's supply routes between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the IS's self-declared caliphate.
Furthermore, the operation came as Iraqi security forces, backed by the anti-IS international coalition, were simultaneously conducting a major offensive to dislodge IS militants from their major stronghold in western Mosul.
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 control parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.