Iraq's government-sanctioned paramilitary forces have launched a new push to capture villages west of the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.
Ahmed al-Asadi, who is a spokesman for the forces which are made up mainly of Shiite militiamen, said the villages being targeted are located south-west of the town of Tal Afar, which is still held by the Islamic State group.
A spokesman for the Hezbollah Brigades said the troops captured the villages of Sharia and Khirbat al-Jahish.
A car bomb exploded near the advancing forces, killing three troops and wounding 14 others, according to Mr al-Asadi.
At least 17 IS militants were killed in the fighting, which was still under way late Wednesday afternoon, he said.
The move by the umbrella group of mostly Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces is likely coordinated with government efforts to recapture the western part of Mosul from IS.
Iraqi government forces this week took a strategic southern hilltop area overlooking the Mosul city airport.
Mosul, which is now the last IS urban stronghold in the country, fell into the hands of the extremists in the summer of 2014, during a shocking blitz that captured large areas of northern and western Iraq.
The battle for Mosul, backed by the US-led coalition, has already driven the militants from the eastern half of the city, which is divided roughly in half by the Tigris River.
The Shiite militias already hold a small airport outside Tal Afar, which is s located some 93 miles east of the Syrian border.