Middle East

Iraqi Shiite militias push to take villages west of Mosul

  • Federal police officers look towards Islamic State group territory as civilians flee the area, in the town of Abu Saif, Iraq, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. A military spokesman says Iraqi forces are consolidating their gains south of Mosul ahead of moving deeper into the city's Islamic State-held western half. The spokesman of the Joint Military Operation Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, told The Associated Press that nearly 123 square kilometers -- about 47 square miles -- have been taken south of Mosul since the new push started on Sunday. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)

    Federal police officers look towards Islamic State group territory as civilians flee the area, in the town of Abu Saif, Iraq, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. A military spokesman says Iraqi forces are consolidating their gains south of Mosul ahead of moving deeper into the city's Islamic State-held western half. The spokesman of the Joint Military Operation Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, told The Associated Press that nearly 123 square kilometers -- about 47 square miles -- have been taken south of Mosul since the new push started on Sunday. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)  (The Associated Press)

  • A civilian who escaped Islamic State territory phones his family he left behind, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 in Abu Saif, Iraq. Iraqi forces advanced into the southern outskirts of Mosul in a push to drive Islamic State militants from the city's western half.(AP Photo/Bram Janssen)

    A civilian who escaped Islamic State territory phones his family he left behind, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017 in Abu Saif, Iraq. Iraqi forces advanced into the southern outskirts of Mosul in a push to drive Islamic State militants from the city's western half.(AP Photo/Bram Janssen)  (The Associated Press)

  • An Iraqi federal police officers looks through binoculars from the town of Abu Saif as civilians flee Islamic State group territory, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017.  A military spokesman said Iraqi forces are consolidating their gains south of Mosul ahead of moving deeper into the city's Islamic State-held western half. The spokesman of the Joint Military Operation Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, told The Associated Press that nearly 123 square kilometers -- about 47 square miles -- have been taken south of Mosul since the new push started on Sunday. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)

    An Iraqi federal police officers looks through binoculars from the town of Abu Saif as civilians flee Islamic State group territory, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. A military spokesman said Iraqi forces are consolidating their gains south of Mosul ahead of moving deeper into the city's Islamic State-held western half. The spokesman of the Joint Military Operation Command, Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, told The Associated Press that nearly 123 square kilometers -- about 47 square miles -- have been taken south of Mosul since the new push started on Sunday. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)  (The Associated Press)

Iraq's government-sanctioned paramilitary forces, made up mainly of Shiite militiamen, have launched a new push to capture villages west of the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.

The forces' spokesman, Ahmed al-Asadi, said on Wednesday that the villages are located southwest of the town of Tal Afar, still held by the Islamic State group.

He didn't provide details but the move by the umbrella group of mostly Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces is likely coordinated with government effort to recapture western part of Mosul from IS.

Iraqi government forces this week took a hilltop area overlooking the Mosul city airport.

The Shiite militias already hold a small airport outside Tal Afar, which is s located some 93 miles (150 kilometers) east of the Syrian border.