Third of west Mosul retaken
Iraqi security forces have seized control of more than a third of west Mosul, a commander said yesterday, after a week of steady gains in their battle to retake the city from the Islamic State group.
Fierce fighting has shaken Mosul in recent days as thousands of US-backed Iraqi soldiers and police battle to reclaim the country's second city.
A renewed push against the jihadists launched last Sunday has seen IS forced from several neighbourhoods and key sites, including the main local government headquarters and the famed Mosul museum.
Speaking to AFP on Sunday, Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service said "more than a third" of west Mosul was now under the control of security forces.
CTS forces were battling IS inside the Mosul al-Jadida and Al-Aghawat areas yesterday, Saadi said, adding that he expected the fighting there to be completed in the coming hours.
Iraq's Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that forces from the Rapid Response Division, another special forces unit, and the federal police were also attacking the Bab al-Toub area on the edge of Mosul's Old City.
"The battle is not easy... we are fighting an irregular enemy who hides among the citizens and uses tactics of booby-trapping, explosions and suicide bombers, and the operation is taking place with precision to preserve the lives of the citizens," Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the JOC, told AFP.
Still, he said, IS resistance "has begun to weaken in a big way".
IS seized Mosul in mid-2014 when the jihadist group swept across areas north and west of Baghdad, taking control of swathes of territory and declaring a cross-border "caliphate" in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
Backed by a US-led air strikes and other support, Iraqi forces have since retaken much of the territory they lost.
The operation to recapture Mosul -- then the last Iraqi city under IS control -- was launched in October.
After recapturing the east of the city, Iraqi forces last month set their sites on the west, where hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped.
In Syria the coalition is backing an Arab-Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that is pushing towards the jihadists' de facto capital Raqa.
Turkish-backed rebels are also advancing against IS in northern Syria, as are government troops supported by Russia.