Iraq forces in fresh push to liberate villages south of Mosul
BAGHDAD - Iraqi forces on Sunday advanced towards Qayyarah, which lies south of the Islamic State group's main hub of Mosul, reviving a weeks-old operation that has made slow progress so far.
The operations command for Nineveh, the province of which Mosul is the capital, said the fresh push "aimed to liberate the villages that lie east of Qayyarah".
Iraqi forces launched an offensive in late March which was billed as the first step in the drive to retake Mosul, Iraq's second city.
The operation involves joint Iraqi forces, including Kurdish peshmerga, as well as a US Marine artillery post based outside Makhmur.
Qayyarah, which has an air field, lies to the west, on the other side of the Tigris River, but is still about 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul.
Nineveh operations command said the renewed offensive saw Iraqi forces close in on Hajj Ali, a village on the banks of the Tigris that is the last key ISIS position before Qayyarah.
The Iraqi forces said they were supported by air strikes from the US-led coalition.
The fresh operation comes as Iraqi forces are battling ISIS fighters in Fallujah, which lies 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Baghdad and is the jihadist group's other main Iraqi bastion besides Mosul.