Iraqi army soldiers, backed by Popular Mobilization Units and Kurdish Peshmerga forces, have established control over more areas near Mosul as they are trying to drive Daesh militants out of their last stronghold in the country and deal a death blow to them.
Iraqi Army’s spokesman Major Amin Sheikhani told Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network on Thursday that Brigade 91 of the army had freed the villages of Sultan Abdullah, Upper Duzat, Lower Duzat and Tal Shair from the grip of Daesh extremists.
The announcement came shortly after a New York Times photojournalist was injured in a car bomb explosion in the town of Bartallah, located less than 20 kilometers east of Mosul, after Iraqi troopers liberated the area.
An unnamed security source said the photojournalist, whose identity was not immediately released, suffered slight injuries in the act of terror and was transferred to a nearby hospital to receive treatment.
Moreover, Iraq’s Joint Operations Command stated that security forces had seized Mishraq State Sulfur Mine south of Mosul.
Hussam al-Din al-Saffar, a member of the Nineveh provincial council, also said army units and Peshmerga fighters had wrested control over 10 villages between Qayyarah and Nawaran regions, located approximately 300 kilometers north of the capital Baghdad, killing tens of Daesh extremists.
Saffar added that engineering units were now clearing the liberated villages, which lie south of Mosul, of unexploded ordnance and booby traps.
The Kurdish forces also reportedly shot down a Daesh reconnaissance drone during their operation in the village of Nawaran, north of Mosul.
Earlier on Thursday, the Peshmerga commanded said in a statement that Kurdish forces had liberated Imam Reza village, situated 16 kilometers east of Mosul.
Separately, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan spokesman in Mosul, Ghias Surchi, said Peshmerga forces had seized control over the strategic Khorsabad road in al-Shalalat area.
Also on Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the battle to free Mosul from Daesh’s control has been going faster than planned.
“The fighting forces are currently pushing forward toward the city more quickly than we thought and more quickly than we had established in our plan for this campaign,” he said.
Nearly 30,000 Iraqi army soldiers, volunteer fighters and Kurdish Peshmerga forces are taking part in the the military operation to retake Mosul from Daesh, according to media reports.