U.S. military officials say Iraqi forces, with help from other foreign governments, have successfully retaken 40 villages from the Islamic State in the area surrounding Mosul. The progress is part of the operation to reclaim the city that began last week. A U.S.-led coalition has been working to step up airstrikes against the militant group during the operation, in tandem with Iraqi forces. Meanwhile, militants have been using hostages as human shields in their resistance. “Tens of thousands” have been taken hostage and herded toward the city for such use, according to the United Nations. On Wednesday, the group shot at least 232 dead, according to a United Nations announcement on Friday.