IRBIL, IRAQ —
Iraqi forces renewed their offensive toward the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul on Wednesday, pushing their way into villages on the southeastern outskirts of the city under cover of heavy coalition airstrikes.
The offensive had stalled out for several weeks after Iraqi forces met stiff resistance after managing to retake just three out of an original target of eight villages from Islamic State fighters.
People fleeing those villages said IS had built tunnels under the area to hide in and attack Iraqi forces at night, and had also used suicide bombers to keep the Iraqi military at bay.
Wednesday’s operation started at dawn and Iraqi forces by midday had moved into the village of Mahana.
Local media reports citing commanders on the ground said three women suicide bombers and 15 IS fighters in Mahana had been “targeted” by the airstrikes.
FILE - Iraqi army members stand guard at the entrance to the Nineveh Liberation Operations Command at Makhmour base, south of Mosul, Iraq, March 13, 2016.