MOSUL, Iraq, May 16 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units liberated three villages from Islamic State (IS) militants on Tuesday, said the Iraqi military.
It was the fifth day of an operation aiming to dislodge the extremist militants from areas beside the Iraqi-Syrian border in western Mosul, according to the Iraqi military.
The predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi units, backed by army helicopters, freed the scattered villages in the north and south of the IS-held town of al-Qairwan.
The town of al-Qairwan is located in the rugged sprawling area south of Sinjar, which itself is some 100 km west of Mosul, said the Hashd Shaabi units in a statement.
The Hashd Shaabi units also approached the edge of al-Qasab village north of al-Qairwan and shelled IS posts in the village in preparation to storm the village, the statement said.
The paramilitary units fought sporadic clashes against IS militants, killing 31 of them, destroyed several car bombs and seized an armored vehicle in southern al-Qairwan, it said.
The units currently surround the town from three sides, thereby isolating the IS-held town and cutting off its supply routes along the main roads between the IS-held towns of Tal Afar and Sinjar.
They later pushed toward western al-Qairwan in order to isolate the town from the other militants-seized town of Baaj, 25 km west of al-Qairwan, according to the statement.
The operation enabled the Hashd Shaabi units to secure the border areas between Iraq and neighboring Syria and cut off the IS's supply routes between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of the IS's self-declared caliphate.
Furthermore, the operation came as Iraqi security forces, backed by the anti-IS international coalition, were simultaneously conducting a major offensive to dislodge IS militants from their major stronghold in western Mosul.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to control parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.