A member of the Iraqi special forces' Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) fires his machine gun as he holds a position inside Mosul's university on January 15, 2017, during an ongoing military operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/Xinhua)
MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Monday continued heavy fighting against Islamic State (IS) militants and freed more neighborhoods from the extremist militants in the eastern side of the city of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The Iraqi army soldiers backed by U.S.-led coalition aircraft continued their clashes with IS militants in the northern front of the city and managed to free the neighborhoods of Kindi and Qairawan, leaving many IS militants killed and destroying four vehicles carrying heavy machine guns, a statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said.
In the eastern front, the commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) retook control of the neighborhoods of al-Shurta and Majmoaa Thaqafiyah and raised the Iraqi flag over some of their buildings after fierce clashes with IS militants, destroying two car bombs and killing many of the extremist militants, the statement said.
The elite CTS troops, backed by international aircraft, also freed the neighborhoods of Jammasa and Nabi Younus, including the shrine of Prophet Younus (Prophet Jonah), after defeating IS militants, the statement added.
In 2014, the extremist militants bombed the shrine, which is revered in Islam as well as Christianity and Judaism.
In the southern part of the eastern side of Mosul, the federal police and army soldiers continued clearing operations in the recently freed neighborhoods after the troops completely retook control of the southern part of the eastern bank of the Tigris River, which bisects the city, according to the statement.
A source from the CTS forces told Xinhua by telephone that Monday's advance put the 3rd Bridge, which links the two banks of Mosul city, under the fire of the troops.
So far, security forces are in control of three of Mosul's five bridges on the Tigris River, which all were partially destroyed.
According to the military officers, the Iraqi forces have recaptured some 90 percent of the neighborhoods of the eastern side of Mosul.
On Dec. 29, the CTS commandos, army troops and federal police launched the second phase of a major offensive to free the eastern bank of Mosul.
Last month, battles in Mosul slowed down as extremist militants used civilians as human shields, resorted to suicide car bombs and made mortar and sniper attacks in stiff resistance.
On Oct. 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi 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.