BAGHDAD – The Latest on the battle to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group (all times local):
Iraqi forces have pushed into an Islamic State-held town south of Mosul after a wave of airstrikes and heavy artillery.
Iraqi commanders said Saturday that most of the IS fighters fled the town of Shura earlier this week, using civilians as human shields, but that U.S. airstrikes disrupted the forced march, allowing some civilians to escape.
Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Najim al-Jabouri said "after all this shelling, I don't think we will face much resistance." He added that "this is easy, because there are no civilians left."
Lt. Col. Hussein Nazim of the Federal Police said some civilians might still be in the city, but that the use of heavy artillery and airstrikes was a standard tactic.
Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake militant-held Mosul last week. Forces coming up from the south are still 20 miles (35 kilometers) from the city, but fighting units on other fronts are closer
State-sanctioned Shiite militias have launched an attack on the Islamic State group west of the Iraqi city of Mosul but reiterated that they would not enter the Sunni majority city.
Jaafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for the Hezbollah Brigades, said they launched an offensive Saturday along with other militias toward the town of Tel Afar, which had a Shiite majority before it fell to IS in 2014. He says Iranian forces are advising the fighters and Iraqi aircraft are providing airstrikes.
Iraq launched a massive operation to retake militant-held Mosul, its second largest city, last week. The involvement of the Shiite militias has raised concerns the battle could aggravate sectarian divisions.
Al-Husseini says the militias will focus on Tel Afar and on securing the western border with Syria.