Iraqi forces on Sunday launched a ground offensive to drive the Daesh terrorist group from their last stronghold in Mosul in northern Iraq.
“We announce the start of a new phase in the operation,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said in a televised statement.
While Iraqi forces moved into western Mosul from the city’s northern and western fronts, fighters of the pro-government al-Hashd al-Shaabi militia attacked the area from the west, military spokesman Brigadier-General Yahya Rashool said.
“Our forces are advancing to achieve their set goals,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Iraqi forces have captured five more villages in western Mosul, Abdul-Amir Yarullah, one of the commanders of Mosul operation, said in a written statement.
Earlier, Iraqi forces had captured seven villages and a power plant from Daesh militants in western Mosul as part of the offensive.
Federal police units are aiming to capture Mosul airport, just south of the city, according to police First Lieutenant Faisal al-Khafaji.
“The airport will allow our forces to have an airbase close to the city and facilitate airstrikes” against Daesh, he said.
In October, the Iraqi army -- backed by a U.S.-led air coalition and local allies on the ground -- began a wide-ranging campaign to retake Mosul, once Iraq’s second largest city in terms of population.
In January, the Iraqi army announced the "total liberation" of eastern Mosul -- after three months of fighting -- from the grip of the terrorist group.
Daesh has overrun Mosul -- along vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq -- in 2014.