SHINGAL, Kurdistan Region – The Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force declared on Saturday it had captured four villages and a main road connecting the Yezidi area of Shingal to the ISIS-held town of Qairawan west of Mosul in northern Iraq.
This comes as the Federal Police represented by the elite rapid Response Force and the Iraqi army liberated the entire Haramat district northwest of the city on Saturday, read a military statement, adding that with this progress on the battlefield they are now in full control of "the western and southern bank of the Tigris River" in Western Mosul.
The 16th Division of the Iraqi army has also liberated Hawi Kanisa, again in the northwest of the city, another military statement read.
A statement from the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary reported that the main Shingal-Qairawan road has fallen to their forces and they are now just 3 kilometers from the center of the ISIS-held town of Qairawan.
It also announced that some 40 families were rescued from four liberated villages around Qairawan including Um Hijra, Mughaira, Abid and Khinaisi.
Rudaw's Tahsim Qasim, reporting near Qairawan, south of Shigal, reported heavy clashes between the paramilitary, backed by the Iraqi air force, and the ISIS militants.
Qasim added that the mainly Shiite force had the Yezidi village of Tal Banat besieged as they continued to bomb the ISIS positions.
VIDEO: Hashd al-Shaabim backed by the Iraqi air force, bomb ISIS positions in Tal Banat village, southeast of Shingal. The Iraqi army reported that one of its warplanes that was supporting the Shiite forces in the area was shot at, adding that it carried out its mission nevertheless, and landed safely.
The Hashd forces launched an operation to recapture areas west of Mosul in the early hours on Friday, as the Iraqi forces were engaged in fierce fighting in western Mosul.
The main objective for the paramilitary force is Qairawan and Baa’j located west of Mosul and close to the Syrian border, the Hashd al-Shaabi media office reported senior commander Mahdi al-Muhandis as saying on Friday.
Muhandis added that the operation was to achieve its objectives in the “next 48 or 72 hours."
Haji Jawdat, media officer to the Badr organization, an armed group within the Hashd al-Shaabi told Rudaw Friday that “there is full cooperation with the Peshmerga especially in areas which have close proximities with the Peshmerga.”
The Iraqi forces, including the Federal Police, the Rapid Response Force and the US-trained Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) are continuing their offensive in the northwest of west Mosul, more than a week after the opening of the new front against the ISIS militants north of the city.
ISIS militants continued to deploy several car bombs and sniper fire to slow down the advancing Iraqi forces, Rudaw's Sidad Lashkri, embedded with Iraqi forces in western Mosul reported on Saturday, as Rudaw's camera's captured plumes of black smoke rising in the skyline of the city.
The CTS were able to bring Hay al-Zaraye under their control on Friday.
The Iraqi Security Forces are now in contact with the 17 Tamuz, and Iqtsadyeen districts, bringing them close to the center of the city where the well-protected ISIS-held Old Mosul is.
ISIS still controls the Turkmen town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul; Hawija, Riaz and Rashad south of Kirkuk; and several places in Anbar province in western Iraq, including al-Qaim and Rawa, near the Syrian border.
The PMU were established in June 2014 when Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, Iraq’s highest Shiite religious authority, called for able-bodied men to join the fight against ISIS. These Shiite militias are commonly referred to as Hashd al-Shaabi.
In December 2016 the Iraqi parliament approved a law recognizing Hashd al-Shaabi as an official force under the umbrella of the army.