Iraqi forces have recaptured half of the last town held by the Islamic State group in northern Niniveh province as fierce clashes rage against jihadist fighters, the military said on Wednesday.
General Abdelamir Yarallah, head of military operations in the region, said federal police and special units had hoisted the Iraqi flag after having "liberated" the eastern sector of Al-Ayadieh town and the nearby village of Qubuq.
The army and Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces have been tasked with the recapture of western Al-Ayadieh, where fighting has been fierce and the jihadists are putting up "fierce resistance", said Hashed spokesman Ahmed al-Assadi.
Last Sunday, troops, police and special forces, allied with the Hashed coalition, seized full control of the city of Tal Afar, near the Syrian border, with IS fighters taking refuge in Al-Ayadieh, 15 kilometres to the north.
Around "150 to 200 IS fighters moved with their families up to Al-Ayadieh", according to Brigadier General Andrew A. Croft, deputy commander of the US-led coalition air units supporting the Iraqi advance in northern Iraq.
After its ouster in July from Nineveh's provincial capital of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, IS now controls only the city of Hawija, 300 kilometres north of Baghdad, and desert areas along the border with war-torn Syria.