MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Iraqi military said its troops freed Telkief, a town north of Mosul, from Islamic State (IS) group militants on Thursday.
Telkief, 20 km north of Mosul, was recaptured amid continued efforts by government forces to free the remaining IS-held neighborhoods in northeastern Mosul, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, from the Joint Operations Command, said in a statement.
The operation to capture Telkief, which had been under government siege for almost two months, started at dawn and involved several hours of heavy street battles, Yarallah said.
Currently, government forces are in full control of the Nineveh Plain, which lies to the east and northeast of Mosul, the capital of Iraq's northern province of Nineveh.
In addition, army forces drove out IS militants from the luxurious Nineveh Oberoi hotel in Mosul after fierce clashes, Yarallah said.
The battles continued throughout the day against IS militants to free remaining neighborhoods and former presidential palaces in Mosul, in an area locally known as the left bank of the Tigris River, which divides the city.
The commander of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces said on Wednesday that CTS troops are now in full control of the main part of the eastern side of Mosul.
"CTS forces have completely retaken control of the eastern side of Mosul," Lt. Gen. Talib Shghati told reporters.
"The only neighborhoods left in Mosul are in the northern part of the city which the army units are fighting to liberate soon," Shghati said, adding that Mosul's five bridges over the Tigris river are all under security forces' control.
He said CTS troops have so far killed 3,300 IS militants and destroyed 300 car bombs in the Mosul battles.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of a major offensive to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city, on Oct. 17.
The second phase of the offensive, to free the eastern bank of Mosul, began on Dec. 29.
Battles in Mosul decreased in December when extremist militants started using civilians as human shields, resorted to suicide car bombings and mortar and sniper attacks.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their posts and fled, enabling IS militants to gain control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.