Iraq forces retake ancient town of Hatra from the Islamic State
Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has announced "victory" over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the city of Mosul, his office said. (AFP)

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.