UPDATED: Iraqi army, police retake 2 western Mosul villages, power station

Iraqi security forces advance towards the western side of Mosul, Iraq February 19, 2017. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily

Nineveh ( Iraqi army and Federal Police forces recaptured Sunday two villages and a power station in western Mosul as the government announced the launch of a new decisive phase of offensives to retake the city from militants.

News reports quoted the Joint Operations Command as saying forces from the army’s 9th division recaptured the village of Bakhira, southwest of Mosul.

The Defense Ministry’s War Media Cell also quoted operations commander, Lt. Gen. Abdulamir Yarallah, as saying the forces also recaptured the village of Azba and raised the Iraqi flags at its buildings.

Meanwhile, other reports said Federal Police forces took over Lazzagah power station, which stands near the western shore of the Tigris River that bisects Mosul.

Police chief Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat was quoted as saying that his forces were moving towards Bouseif Hills, Mosul Airport and areas stretching along the western shore of the Tigris River. He said the advance was backed by an Iraqi aerial and artillery cover.

“Our drones are detecting all of the enemy’s defenses…our counter-defenses are prepared for destroying its boobytraps and drones,” Jawdat stated.

Shortly earlier, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a brief announcement that security forces launched an operation to retake the western side of Mosul, Islamic State militants’ largest stronghold in Iraq which the group took over in 2014. He said on January 24th that government forces, backed by popular militias and U.S.-led coalition troops had cleared the whole of the eastern region from militants after more than three months of fighting.

Recapturing Mosul would represent the strongest blow to Islamic State’s proclaimed “Islamic Caliphate”. Iraqi and international coalition generals had predicted the western part of the city to be fully recaptured within six months.

The conflict in Mosul has so far displaced at least 191.000 civilians, and the United Nations has recently warned of mass displacements affecting nearly 250.000 out of 750.000 civilians as operations aim at the western region.

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