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Aug 25, 9:05 AM EDT

The Iraqi prime minister says his country's forces have retaken the key town of Qayara, near a major air base south of Mosul, from the Islamic State group



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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi forces have retaken the key town of Qayara, near a major air base south of Mosul, from the Islamic State group, according to a statement from the Iraqi prime minister's office.

Haider al-Abadi said the victory marks was an "important step" on the road to Mosul, Iraq's second-largest which has been in IS hands for over two years now. The statement was released by al-Abadi's office on Thursday.

Iraqi troops launched the operation to retake Qayara this week, more than a month after retaking the nearby air base from IS. Iraq's Ministry of Defense said the army's 9th division and the country's elite special forces took part in the operation that was closely supported by coalition airpower.

Iraqi officials have repeatedly pledged that Mosul will be retaken this year. Qayara is located 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Mosul.

Separately, Iraqi officials say a series of bombings and shootings across the Iraqi capital has killed 13 people and wounded 24. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The police say separate roadside bombings on busy commercial streets in northern and southern Baghdad killed five and wounded 17 on Thursday. Two sticky bombs attached to cars just south and east of Baghdad killed two and wounded seven.

And three shootings in different Baghdad neighborhoods killed six people.

Police and hospital officials confirmed the casualty toll, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

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Associated Press writer Murtada Faraj contributed to this report.

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