MOSUL, Iraq, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Thursday recaptured a neighborhood and two villages, killing up to 200 militants of extremist Islamic State (IS) group, as troops launched the second phase of offensive to drive out IS militants from their major stronghold in the city of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
Members of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) attacked the front lines of IS militants in several neighborhoods in eastern side of Mosul, and managed to retake control of al-Quds neighborhood, while heavy clashes continued in other nearby neighborhoods, a statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said.
In northern front, the soldiers of the army's 16th Division freed the villages of al-Sada and Tawiyla and raised the Iraqi flag over their main buildings after fierce clashes with IS militants, the statement said.
In southeastern Mosul, the federal police teamed up with the soldiers of the 9th armored Division and attacked the front lines of IS militants in the three neighborhoods of al-Entisar, al-Salam and al-Shaimaa, sparking heavy clashes with IS militants during the day, the statement added.
The troops made limited progress inside the three neighborhoods, which already were battleground of fierce clashes between the troops and IS militants in the past weeks, according to the statement.
On the other side, the extremist group carried out several counter-attacks against the attacking troops in an attempt to foil the troops' operations and to inflict heavy casualties among them.
Dozens of IS militants, backed by booby-trapped cars and a number of suicide bombers, attacked the federal police and the 9th Division soldier in southeastern the city, but the troops repelled their attacks, killing some 103 militants and four suicide bombers wearing explosive vests, according to the statement.
The troops also destroyed 24 booby-trapped cars, including several suicide car bombs, in addition to destroying two vehicles carrying heavy machine guns, it said.
Another IS attack was repelled by the 16th Division soldiers when the extremist militants attacked their positions in the northern edge of the city, leaving some 50 IS militants killed and 12 car bombs destroyed, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Abu Hudhaifa, a prominent IS leader of Mosul's northern front was killed by an airstrike conducted by the U.S.-led coalition aircraft, it added.
In eastern Mosul, the elite CTS forces fought back an IS counter-attack during the day, leaving 35 IS militants killed and destroying two suicide car bombs and a vehicle carrying a heavy machine gun and four militants aboard, it said.
The battles in Mosul came as the elite CTS forces, army troops and federal police launched in the early morning the second phase of a major offensive to free Mosul, and the troops made their new push into several neighborhoods in the eastern side of Mosul, locally known as the left bank of the Tigris which bisects the city.
In the past few weeks, the battles in Mosul were slowed amid grueling fighting inside Mosul with extremist militants, who used the city's civilians as human shields, carried out brutal counter attacks in small groups moving quickly throughout the districts, and resorted to suicide car bombs, in addition to mortar and sniper attacks.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Oct. 17 announced a major offensive to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city.
Since then, Iraqi security forces, backed by international coalition forces, have inched to the eastern fringes of Mosul and made progress on other routes around the city.
Mosul, some 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.