MOSUL, Iraq, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi paramilitary units of Hashd Shaabi units on Sunday continued heavy clashes against Islamic State (IS) militants on the third day of an operation aimed at dislodging the extremist militants from the areas near the Iraqi-Syrian border in west of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The predominantly Shiite Hashd Shaabi units, backed by the army's helicopters, freed the villages of Khailo and Tal al-Qasab from IS militants near the IS-held town of al-Qairwan, which locates in the rugged sprawling area southwest of Tal Afar and south of Sinjar, the Hashd Shaabi said in a statement.
The Hashd Shaabi units also surrounded the village of Tal al-Banat in north of al-Qairwan, where some of IS local leaders are believed to be holed up and using the villagers as human shields, the statement said.
The units are now surrounding the town from three sides, isolating the IS-held town and cutting off its supply routes on the main roads between the town and Tal Afar and Sinjar, the statement said.
The paramilitary units fought sporadic clashes against IS militants and killed 23 of them, including five suicide bombers and two snipers, along with destroying four car bombs, while the helicopter gunships destroyed a fifth booby-trapped car and three IS posts, the statement added.
The operation would enable the Hashd Shaabi units to secure the border areas between Iraq and neighboring Syria and cut off the IS supply routes between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of IS self-declared caliphate.
The operation came as the Iraqi security forces, backed by anti-IS international coalition, are carrying out a major offensive to dislodge IS militants from their major stronghold in the western side of Mosul in northern Iraq.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.