Iraqi forces retake area near Syrian border from IS


Iraqi paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units on Sunday recaptured the town of al-Baaj from Islamic State (IS) militants, as part of an operation to drive out the extremist militants from areas near Iraqi-Syrian border in west of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.

With the loss of Sihha, the enclave has shrunk to three districts alongside the western bank of the Tigris river - the densely populated Old City center, Zanjili and the Medical City.

The Popular Mobilization Forces are taking part in the U.S-backed Iraqi campaign to defeat IS fighters in Mosul and the surrounding Nineveh Province.

The extremist group's grip on the Iraqi side of the northern region along the border with Syria, a desert area where Iraqi and United States sources believe ISIL leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi is hiding, has been ebbing as forces fighting on the side of Iraq's government have advanced.

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In Iraq, one hundred and twenty people have been killed by Islamic State group over the past forty-eight hours in western Mosul.

The Mosul offensive started in October with air and ground support from a US-led worldwide coalition.

The Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) forces announced the "total liberation" of the Baaj district "with support from the air force".

US and Iraqi officials believe IS Group leader al-Baghdadi has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight on in Mosul and is now focusing on his own survival. The town, near the Syrian border, is considered one of the important supply lines for IS through Syria.