People walk past the debris in eastern Mosul, Iraq, on Jan. 22, 2017. Iraqi security forces on Saturday continued fierce clashes to drive out the militants of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group from their last strongholds in the northern outskirts of the city of Mosul, the Iraqi military said. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)
MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Saturday continued fierce clashes to drive out the militants of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group from their last strongholds in the northern outskirts of the city of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The army soldiers, backed by Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition aircraft, took full control of al-Arabi neighborhood after heavy clashes with IS militants and raised the Iraqi flags on some of its buildings, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.
The clashes resulted in the killing of 27 IS militants and the destruction of a tank at the adjacent IS-held neighborhood of al-Rashidiyah, which became the last neighborhood under control of the extremist group, the statement said.
Also in the day, the soldiers recaptured al-Qowsiyat village in north of Rashidiyah after heavy clashes with IS militants and airstrikes on their positions, leaving some 40 militants killed and four car bombs destroyed, the statement added.
In central Mosul, the commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) continued their operations to clear the neighborhoods and areas freed recently from IS militants after the elite troops fulfilled their mission by recapturing the whole central part of the eastern side of the city, locally known as the left bank the Tigris River which bisects Mosul, according to the statement.
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.
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.