MOSUL, Iraq, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces on Monday captured a strategic bridge across the Tigris River, after seizing another neighborhood from Islamic State (IS) militants in western Mosul, the military said.
Federal police and interior ministry special forces, known as Rapid Response, recaptured the neighborhood of Jawsaq and secured the foot of its strategic bridge across Tigris, locally known as 4th Bridge, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, from the Joint Operations Command (JOC), said in a statement.
The bridge is crucial for Iraqi forces to bring in reinforcements and supplies directly from eastern Mosul.
All of Mosul's five bridges, spanning the Tigris River to the city's eastern bank, were destroyed by airstrikes last year.
After securing the foot of the 4th Bridge, federal police and rapid response forces advanced to the adjacent neighborhood of Dindan and took new positions there amid heavy fighting with IS militants, Lt. Gen. Raid Shakir Jawdat, commander of the federal police forces, said in a separate statement.
Earlier in the day, Yarallah said in a press release that federal police and interior ministry rapid response forces recaptured al-Tayaran neighborhood.
The troops are clearing the neighborhood from IS militants, who suffered heavy casualties after days of fierce fighting, Yarallah said without giving further details.
On Sunday, Yarallah said that Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces completely liberated al-Mamoun neighborhood in southern Mosul, which is locally known as the left bank of Tigris River.
CTS special forces also entered the adjacent neighborhood of Wadi Hajar and are fighting fierce clashes with the IS militants inside the neighborhood, according to the security source.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced on Feb. 19 the start of an offensive to drive extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River, which bisects the city.
Late in January, Abadi declared the liberation of eastern Mosul, or the left bank of Tigris, after more than 100 days of fighting against IS militants.
However, the western part of Mosul, with its narrow streets and a population of between 750,000 and 800,000, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces.
Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.