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Iraqi forces press offensive south of Mosul

Mixed troops are advancing towards Qayyarah as part of drive towards Islamic State's main centre of resistance in Iraq
Iraqi soldiers hold a flag that they seized from the Islamic State group (IS) as they hold a position near Qayyarah last month. (AFP)
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Iraqi forces on Sunday advanced towards Qayyarah, which lies south of the Islamic State group's main hub of Mosul, reviving a weeks-old operation that has made slow progress so far.

The operations command for Nineveh, the province of which Mosul is the capital, said the fresh push “aimed to liberate the villages that lie east of Qayyarah”.

Iraqi forces launched an offensive in late March billed as the first step in the drive to retake Mosul, Iraq's second city.

The operation involves joint Iraqi forces, including Kurdish peshmerga, as well as a US Marine artillery post based outside Makhmur.

Qayyarah, which has an airfield, lies to the west on the other side of the Tigris river, about 60 kilometres south of Mosul.

Nineveh operations command said the renewed offensive saw Iraqi forces close in on Hajj Ali, a village on the banks of the Tigris that is the last key IS position before Qayyarah.

The Iraqi forces said they were supported by air strikes from the US-led coalition.

The fresh operation comes as Iraqi forces are battling IS fighters in Fallujah, which lies 50 kilometres west of Baghdad and is the jihadist group's other main Iraqi bastion besides Mosul.