MOSUL, Iraq, May 28 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units on Sunday recaptured a small town from Islamic State (IS) militants in an operation to drive out the militants from areas near Iraqi-Syrian border in west of Mosul, the units said in a statement.
The Hashd Shaabi units freed the town of al-Qahtaniyah and nearby residential complex in north of the IS-held town of Baaj, some 25 km west of the newly-freed town of al-Qairwan, the statement said.
The two towns of Baaj and al-Qairwan are located in the rugged sprawling area in south of the town of Sinjar, some 100 km west of Mosul, and extend further to the Iraqi-Syrian border in the west.
The predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi units, backed by army's helicopter gunships, fought sporadic clashes against IS militants during the day and killed some 19 extremist militants, the statement said.
The helicopter gunships and the paramilitary fighters also destroyed a vehicle carrying heavy machine guns, along with two IS posts firing mortar rounds, the statement added.
The new push of the paramilitary forces began late Wednesday night and reportedly freed many villages scattered in north and west of Baaj.
The forces are advancing in two directions in the open land in order to free all IS-seized villages and take control of IS supply routes around Baaj in order to isolate it and liberate the town later.
On May 23, the Hashd Shaabi units liberated al-Qairwan and many villages scattered around it from IS militants and announced that the paramilitary forces had ended the first stage of a major offensive designed to secure the border areas with neighboring Syria and cut off IS supply routes between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the IS 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 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.