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Iraq Paramilitary Troops Take Strategic Town West of Mosul

FILE - Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) ride in military vehicles on the Iraqi border with Syria, Iraq, May 30, 2017.

A senior leader with an Iraqi government-sanctioned paramilitary force says his troops have captured a key town west of the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group.

Deputy Head of Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, says in a statement that the troops entered the center of strategic Baaj town Sunday morning.

Al-Muhandis said the progress is a "big and qualitative achievement" in the U.S.-backed operation to retake Mosul, which was launched in October. The town, near the Syrian border, is considered one of the important supply lines for IS through Syria.

The Iran-backed PMF — an umbrella group of mostly Shi'ite militias also known as Hashed al-Shaabi in Arabic — has largely operated since October in the desert west of Mosul, trying to cut IS supply lines.