Iraq forces retake town of Hatra southwest of Mosul

Displaced Iraqi children wave the victory sign during their evacuation from the Hatra area on April 26, 2017, as paramilitary forces pressed an offensive to retake the town from Islamic State group fighters

Iraqi forces on Thursday retook the town of Hatra, southwest of Mosul, on the third day of an operation that saw them wrest back a nearby UNESCO-listed ancient city, a statement said.

Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces said they had flushed the Islamic State group out of Hatra, which lies 120 kilometres (80 miles) from Mosul.

The top army commander coordinating the six-month-old offensive to retake the Mosul area from the jihadists, Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah, said the "Hashed al-Shaabi forces fully liberated Hatra town in record time."

He was quoted in a statement from the Joint Operations Command as saying that the Iraqi flag was raised above key buildings in the town following a battle during which "heavy losses" were inflicted on the jihadists.

The Hashed forces, which are dominated by Iran-backed militia groups, had retaken the nearby archaeological site of Hatra on Wednesday.

The ancient city is one of the heritage jewels of Iraq and was damaged by IS after they took over large parts of the country three years ago, although the extent of the destruction remains unclear.