Iraqi forces push further into IS-held western Mosul
Baghdad, Feb 27 (IANS) Iraqi forces on Monday continued to engage in fierce clashes with Islamic State (IS) militants in western Mosul but seized a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the embattled city, the military said.
Federal police and interior ministry special forces, known as Rapid Response, recaptured al-Tayaran neighbourhood and raised the Iraqi flag over some of its buildings, Xinhua news agency quoted Lt. General Abdul-Amir Yarallah, from the Joint Operations Command (JOC), as saying.
The troops are clearing the neighbourhood of IS militants, who sustained heavy casualties after days of fierce fighting, Yarallah said.
The forces are also fighting in the adjacent neighbourhood of Jawsaq and focusing on securing a strategic bridge across the Tigris River, a security source said.
Yarallah on Sunday said Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces completely liberated al-Mamoun neighbourhood after three days of fighting with the IS in southern Mosul, which is locally known as the left bank of Tigris River.
The forces have also entered the adjacent neighbourhood of Wadi Hajar and are battling the IS, according to the source.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced on February 19 the start of an offensive to drive militants out of the western side of Mosul.
Abadi late in January declared the liberation of eastern Mosul after more than 100 days of fighting against the IS.
However, the western part of Mosul, with its narrow streets and a population between 750,000 and 800,000, appears to be a bigger challenge for the Iraqi forces.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq’s northern and western regions.