Iraqi forces have cleared a key road south of Mosul of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), allowing the military advance against "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) to quicken pace, the Iraqi officials told Diyaruna last week.
Using the 30 kilometre Makhmour al-Awsaja road will be an integral part of the mission to liberate Mosul from ISIL, they said.
"Military engineering experts from the Iraqi army's 15th Division and 37th Armoured Infantry Brigade have managed to remove explosives from the road connecting Makhmour township and the village of al-Awsaja in southern al-Qayyara district," said Ninawa Operations Command media officer Brig. Gen. Firas Bashar Sabri.
More than 800 IEDs planted by ISIL have been defused, he told Diyaruna.
"We have removed all IEDs and the road is now secure, but our mission does not end here," he said. "We will need to remove more IEDs and defuse more booby trapped houses as we proceed north towards Mosul."
"ISIL's only weapon now is that of planting explosives to hinder the military units' advance after it has failed to resist our soldiers and confront them face to face," he added.
"The clearing of the road is yet another qualitative development in a series of successes our forces have accomplished," he said.
These include the liberation of many villages south of Mosul, he added, noting that on July 19th, Iraqi forces liberated al-Awsaja "following fierce fighting in which the terrorists suffered heavy losses".
This will boost the military push towards Mosul, Sabri said, as Iraqi forces will fully secure all liberated areas from ISIL penetration or threats.
"Our forces are in good command of every area they liberate, and ISIL has no ability to recover even one inch of liberated territory since it is completely broken as result of the defeats it has taken at the hands of our courageous troops," he said.
Since the operation to liberate Mosul began in March, at least 1,600 ISIL fighters have been killed, he said, and hundreds of enemy vehicles, weapons and equipment stores have been destroyed.
Moving towards the heart of Mosul
After liberating al-Qayyara air base, Iraqi forces turned their attention to the Makhmour al-Awsaja road, which leads to al-Qayyara district, Ninawa provincial council member Abdul Rahman al-Wakka told Diyaruna.
The road had been planted with mines and the military forces were using an alternative dirt road to advance towards ISIL-occupied areas, he said.
"The road now has been cleared of explosives and reopened as a main pathway for units," he said. "The villages along the road, between Makhmour and the outskirts of al-Qayyara, are all safe and have sufficient numbers of army troops and local police."
"We currently are working to communicate with military forces and government authorities in order to start bringing back displaced residents to those villages," al-Wakkaa said.
These include Mahana, Kharbardan, Kabrouk and al-Haj Ali on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, which is now out of range of ISIL fire, he said.
"Local efforts are being made to restore water, power and basic services in those villages, and we hope to bring back all residents, most of whom are staying in a displacement camp in Daibaka, Makhmour district," he added.
Liberation operations are continuing in areas along the western bank of the Tigris, al-Wakkaa said, adding that the armed forces are currently engaged in fierce fighting there to overrun al-Qayyara district from the south.
"The terrorists must not be given an opportunity to catch their breath and we must put strong pressure on them," Ninawa provincial council member Ali Khudair told Diyaruna.
"We must exploit the ISIL elements' current weakness, step up strikes against them, and deplete their capabilities in order to liberate the remaining areas on Mosul's outskirts and head for the heart of the city," he said.
"ISIL is today facing popular resistance in Mosul and its days are numbered," Khudair added.