2 more villages near Mosul fall to Iraq security forces

– Iraqi forces now stand between 5 and 6 kilometers from Mosul’s easternmost neighborhoods, military sources say

– Iraqi counter-terrorism forces have recaptured two more villages east of Mosul from the Daesh terrorist group, military sources said Tuesday.

“Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Agency has managed to restore the villages of Khazna and Tob Zawa,” Saad al-Lehebi, a major in the Iraqi army’s Nineveh Operations Command, told Anadolu Agency.

The fresh gains were made within the context of ongoing military operations — now in their second week — along the Al-Khazir axis east of the Daesh-held city.

According to al-Lehebi, some of 500 local families — from the villages of Khazna, Tob Zawa, Bazawya and Al-Muwafaqiya — have fled to displacement camps in the Al-Khazir region due to ongoing operations east of Mosul.

Abdul-Ghani al-Asadi, commander of Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Agency, said in a televised statement on Tuesday that the agency had completed the “second phase of the first stage” of the campaign to clear Mosul of Daesh elements.

“Iraqi forces are now between five and six kilometers from Mosul’s easternmost neighborhoods, while Iraqi Special Forces have expelled Daesh militants from the town of Karmles southeast of the city and secured all roads leading to it,” al-Asadi said.

Mohamed al-Juboury, an officer in the Nineveh Operations Command, told Anadolu Agency that the army’s Ninth Division had cleared all mines and explosives planted by Daesh in Karmles — located some 25 kilometers southeast of Mosul — before announcing the predominantly-Christian town’s “total liberation” on Monday evening.

On Monday, the Iraqi army’s Joint Operations Command announced the capture of 13 more areas near Mosul, as the army — along with its local allies — brace for a final, decisive push on the city.

One week ago, Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, launched a much-anticipated offensive to retake Mosul.

Daesh’s last stronghold in northern Iraq, the city was overrun by the terrorist group in mid-2014.