Iranian-backed Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary forces on Friday said they had gained control of half of Tal Afar airport and nearby villages.
Tal Afar is an Islamic State-held area close to Turkey where a sizeable ethnic Turkmen population lives.
Capturing the town would be crucial to blocking ISIL’s supply lines between Mosul and the Syrian parts of the group’s self-styled Caliphate.
The U.S.-backed offensive to against the so-called Islamic State in Mosul, its last major stronghold in Iraq, entered its second month on Thursday November 17.
In Mosul itself, Iraqi troops backed by the US have expanded their foothold on the eastern side of the city but fears for the safety of civilians in the town are slowing the advancement of the troops as the jihadists put up fierce resistance including suicide car bombs and sniper fire.
Major General Mohannad Al-Saidi of the Iraqi Special Forces speakingof the offensive to retake Mosul from under ISIL control said: “The enemy in this battle is exploiting civilians and using human shields, which limits our use of artillery and mortars.”
With militants digging in among the civilians as a defence tactic and moving around the city through tunnels, Special Forces are using drones to try to detect insurgents.
Militants have been steadily retreating from areas around Mosul into the city since the battle started on Oct. 17
As the battle rages on, it is becomingly increasingly clear that recapturing Mosul will be a matter of months instead of weeks.