A woman looks at rubble of destroyed buildings in eastern Mosul, Iraq, on Jan. 22, 2017. Iraqi security forces 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. (Xinhua/Khalil Dawood)
MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces recaptured on Sunday the last areas in the central part of the eastern side of Mosul, while the troops continued fighting the Islamic State (IS) group to drive them out from their last stronghold on the northern outskirts of the city, the Iraqi military said.
The Iraqi forces retook control of the small neighborhood of Malayeen and al-Binaa al-Jahiz area in central Mosul and raised the Iraqi flag on some of their buildings, Lieutenant General Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.
"These are the last areas of the center part of Mosul's left bank to be freed," said Yarallah, referring to the eastern side of Mosul, which is locally known as the left bank of the Tigris River which bisects the city.
The troops also took control of a main road linking Iraq's northern city of Mosul to Dohuk Province, which is part of the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, he added.
The latest progress makes the Iraqi forces completely in control of the eastern bank of Mosul, with only the northern outskirts of Rashidiyah left under control of IS militants.
Experts say once the troops recapture the whole eastern side of Mosul, they will begin a new phase of the anti-IS major offensive on the western part of the city.
Meanwhile, the JOC said in a separate statement that Colonel Sabhan Hassan al-Jubouri, commander of the army's 71st Brigade, was killed during the battles on the northern outskirts of Mosul.
On Oct. 17, 2015, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of a major offensive to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city.
The second phase of the offensive, to free the eastern bank of Mosul, began on Dec. 29.
Battles in Mosul slowed down in December as extremist militants started using civilians as human shields, resorted to suicide car bombings and made 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 weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.