A demining expert from the Iraqi army searches for booby-trapped buildings in eastern Mosul on January 16, 2017, during an ongoing military operation against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/Xinhua)
MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi government forces advanced further Tuesday in Mosul amid fierce clashes with Islamic State (IS) militant group, as the troops are nearly recapturing the whole eastern bank of the city, a military statement said.
The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) advanced in the early morning in the eastern front and managed to retake control of Nineveh al-Sharqiya and Bab-Shams, as well as nearby area of Souq al-Ghanam after driving out IS militants, Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.
In the afternoon, the elite CTS troops, backed by international aircraft, also freed Nu'maniya and Uttshana after defeating IS militants, Yarallah said, adding that the troops started to storm the adjacent al-Jazair neighborhood.
The CTS special forces, backed by army helicopter gunships, made another advance when they recaptured Muhandseen and raised the Iraqi flag over some of its buildings after heavy street-to-street clashes with the extremist militants, Yarallah added.
In the northern front, the army soldiers freed a military base and the nearby huge al-Kindi facility at the edge of the recently-freed Kindi neighborhood, Yarallah said.
According to the military officers, the Iraqi forces have recaptured more than 90 percent of eastern bank of the Tigris River which bisects Mosul. Once they recapture the whole eastern side they will begin a new phase of the anti-IS major offensive in the western bank of the city.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Iraq (OCHA) said in recent report that the military operations in Mosul have pushed more than 148,000 civilians to flee their homes in the city and its adjacent districts since the beginning of military offensive in October to reclaim the IS largest stronghold.
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.