Iraqi forces advanced into a town south of Mosul Saturday as an Iraqi Shi'ite militia joined the offensive by opening up a new front to the west.
Iraqi troops approaching Mosul from the south advanced into Shura after a wave of U.S.-led airstrikes and artillery shelling against militant positions inside the town.
Commanders said most Islamic State (IS) fighters withdrew earlier this week, using civilians as human shields, but that U.S. airstrikes had disrupted the forced march, helping some civilians to escape.
Peshmerga soldiers say they cleared this and other villages of Islamic State militants in about six hours, and several of their bodies remain in the now abandoned village in Khadir province, Kurdistan northern Iraq, 29 October 2016. (VOA/H, Murdock)
Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish forces, known as peshmerga, are advancing on Mosul from the south, east and north, capturing villages and disarming Islamic State booby traps.
To the west of the city, Iraq's state-sanctioned Shi'ite militias, backed by Iran, have launched an assault aimed at driving IS from the town of Tal Afar to try to secure the western border with Syria.
Tal Afar, about 70km west of Mosul, Iraq
That could cut-off critical weapons and supply routes between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, an IS stronghold.
There are concerns the militias could inflame sectarian tensions in the Sunni-majority city, but commanders have said they will not enter the city itself.
According to U.N.-cited reports IS has forcibly taken civilians into Mosul. The reports say that in just two days earlier this week, IS-fighters killed more than 250 people who resisted or who were previously members of Iraqi security forces.
Newly displaced Iraqi's who fled from the city of Mosul, Iraq's last major so-called Islamic State (IS) group stronghold, are reunited with their relatives who came two years ago to the refugee camp in the Khazer area, near near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aksi Kalak, some 40 kilometres east of Arbil following their arrival on October 26, 2016.
More than 17,500 people have fled their homes toward government-held areas since the Mosul operation began, the International Organization for Migration said Saturday. That number is expected to sharply rise as the battle continues.
Iraqi forces launched a massive offensive to retake militant-held Mosul last week, Iraq's second-largest city, home to more than 1 million people. The battle for Mosul is expected to take weeks, if not months.