Iraqi troops and various militias on Tuesday secured around 20 villages on the outskirts of Mosul during the country’s operation to recapture the city from the Islamic State group, Al Jazeera reported. More than 5,000 soldiers from the United States have also been deployed in a supportive capacity for the campaign to retake control of Mosul, the militant group's last stronghold in Iraq.
Officials of the Kurdish militia said their forces were pausing their offensive 30 km east of Mosul to allow the Iraqi Army to go ahead with the second stage of the operation – the largest in the country since US forces left its soil in 2011. Other officials said fighters of the Islamic State group were lighting oil fires to hamper the security forces' progress and were attacking government troops with suicide car bombs.
At least 30,000 soldiers are fighting for the Iraqi government, with the Islamic State group reported to have 4,000 to 8,000 militants in the city. The coalition attacking the city includes fighters from the Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni tribal groups. However, the United Nations said the offensive was a cause for "extreme concern" for the civilians trapped in the city. The militant group has been known to use citizens as human shields in the past.
Mosul is Iraq's second-largest city and has been under the control of the Islamic State group since 2014. The US claimed that if the forces could defeat the militants in Mosul, it would deal a lasting blow to its influence in the region.