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Feb 22, 4:13 AM EST

Iraqi Shiite militias push to take villages west of Mosul

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq's government-sanctioned paramilitary forces, made up mainly of Shiite militiamen, have launched a new push to capture villages west of the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.

The forces' spokesman, Ahmed al-Asadi, said on Wednesday that the villages are located southwest of the town of Tal Afar, still held by the Islamic State group.

He didn't provide details but the move by the umbrella group of mostly Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces is likely coordinated with government effort to recapture western part of Mosul from IS.

Iraqi government forces this week took a hilltop area overlooking the Mosul city airport.

The Shiite militias already hold a small airport outside Tal Afar, which is s located some 93 miles (150 kilometers) east of the Syrian border.

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