World Bulletin / News Desk
Police officer Ghazwan al-Jabouri said army troops -- backed by police and armed Sunni tribesmen -- had captured four villages in the northern Saladin province.
"Iraqi forces are now moving towards the Shirqat district," he said.
Earlier Tuesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi gave the go-ahead for a military offensive aimed at recapturing Shirqat, the last ISIL stronghold in Saladin and the gateway to the Nineveh province.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces backed by U.S.-led coalition warplanes managed to capture two ISIL-held villages in western Ramadi.
"Iraqi forces have liberated the villages of Khalidya and Al-Amirya, located on the banks of the Tigris River," Army Commander Qassim al-Mohamadi told Anadolu Agency.
He added that a number of ISIL militants had been killed in the operation.
"Iraqi forces are now preparing to liberate the [ISIL-held] city of Haditha," he said.
Iraq’s security situation has deteriorated markedly since mid-2014, when ISIL captured Mosul -- the country’s second largest city -- along with vast swathes of territory in the country’s northern and western regions.
In recent months, the Iraqi army -- backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and local allies on the ground -- has since managed to retake much territory. Nevertheless, the extremist group remains in firm control of several parts of the country, including Mosul.
Iraqi officials have repeatedly vowed to recapture Mosul by the end of the year.