Aug. 21 (UPI) -- Iraqi forces recaptured five villages in Tal Afar from the Islamic State, officials said Monday.
Lt.Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah, of the Joint Operations Command and the War Media Cel in Tal Afar, said in a statement the army's elite Counter-Terrorism Service freed Tal Rihal, Jabbara, Hussein Idris, al-Mulla and al-Majeed villages, southwest of the town.
Earlier in the day, Iraqi troops announced the liberation of Toumi, Majarin, Mulla Jassim and Abret Aziz.
"Troops cut off al-Kask road in Mahlabiya direction," Yarallah said.
Tal Afar is about 35 miles west of Mosul, which was recaptured last month.
The media bureau of Popular Mobilization Units reported that volunteer fighters and the 9th Armored Division of the Iraqi Army took full control over the route linking Tal Afar to Mosul.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced in a televised speech the start of the operation to recapture Tal Afar, which was taken over by the militants in 2014.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 militants and their families are estimated in Tal Afar, Brig.Gen. Yehia Rasool, a senior Iraqi commander and former Tal Afar mayor said last month.
Cap. Ali Ahmad al-Hindawi of the Federal Police said security forces destroyed 13 tunnels on the southern outskirts of Tal Afar. He said the militants were using the tunnels to move into and out of Tal Afar, and were targeting military units.