Two Christian towns have been freed after being held by the Islamic State (Isis) for more than two years, say military officials.

Lieutenant General Riyad Jalal, commander of Iraqi ground forces, said that Hamdaniya, also known as Qaraqosh, which is about 20km southeast of Mosul, was no longer under the control of IS (Daesh).

Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Maliki, commander of the Iraqi 9th armoured division, said his forces are combing the city for boobytraps and searching buildings for IS fighters still hiding out in the town.

He told al-Iraqiya TV that local officials were being brought back to reopen the public buildings, with claims that around 200 IS militants were killed in the attack.

"The Iraqi 9th armoured division and associated forces are making advances to seize Hamdaniya district. They cleared the Hamdaniya general hospital and raised the Iraqi flag over it," said statement issued by the Iraqi War Media Office of the joint operation command.

On Saturday (23 October) church bells pealed in the Christian town of Bartella for the first time since IS captured the city, according to local networks. Video footage shows an Iraqi soldier ringing the bells to signal the town's release from IS.

On the church walls, IS graffiti read: "Our God is higher than the cross."

Capt Mustapha Muhsen told the Telegraph: "The fight for Bartella had been harder than the others we have liberated."

He added that the forces had met up with six suicide attackers and seven car bombs in the two-day fight to take the Bartella.

"Perhaps they did not want to give it up so easily because of its religious significance."

Fighting is expected to become more protracted and fierce as the coalition force of over 100,000 moves towards the city of Mosul.

In retaliation, IS militants shot dead 284 men and boys, an Iraqi intelligence source told CNN dumping the bodies in a mass grave at the disused College of Agriculture in the north of the city.

Kurdish forces also began a fresh advance on Mosul in an early attack on Sunday (23 October) on two fronts to the northeast of Mosul, near the town of Bashiqa. Last week, Iraqi and Peshmerga troops have been fighting Isis in a number of uninhabited towns and villages around Mosul, their progress slowed by suicide bombs and snipers.