MOSUL, Iraq, March 7 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces freed three neighborhoods from Islamic State (IS) militants on Tuesday after recapturing some main government buildings in the old city center of western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The federal police and interior ministry special forces, known as Rapid Response, completely liberated the neighborhoods of Dawassa and Dandan in central Mosul and raised the Iraqi flag on its buildings after heavy clashes against IS militants during the day, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, from the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
The troops also made a new progress in the neighborhoods of Nabi Sheath and Ugaidat in the old city center, sparking heavy clashes with IS militants, the statement said.
The battles in Mosul's old city center left dozens of IS militants killed and five car bombs destroyed, along with destroying six IS vehicles, according to the statement.
Earlier in the day, Yarallah said the troops fought fierce overnight clashes and freed large parts of the two neighborhoods, including the old government complex, museum, court buildings and Nineveh's provincial police command in Dawassa neighborhood.
In the morning, the troops captured the foot of a strategic bridge across the Tigris River, known as al-Hurriyah Bridge, and the adjacent municipality building, as well as the building of the central bank, a provincial security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Also in the day, the commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) completely freed the neighborhood of Tel al-Rumman and continued fighting in the nearby Mansour neighborhood in the southwestern part of Mosul's western side, the JOC statement said.
Meanwhile, the CTS special forces initiated a progress in the neighborhoods of Mualmeen and Shuhadaa amid heavy clashes against IS militants, as the troops are pushing deeper toward the central part of Mosul's western side, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River, which bisects the city.
The battles in southwestern part of the western side of Mosul resulted in the killing of many IS militants and the destruction of four car bombs and 25 explosive devices planted by IS militants, according to the statement.
Near Mosul, the army's 9th armored Division and the Shiite paramilitary Hashd Shaabi unit continued clearing the villages from roadside bombs and booby-trapped houses in Tulul Attshana in west of Mosul, the statement said.
The troops also freed the village of Thaljah from IS militants near Badush area, which located on the main road between Mosul and the IS-held town of Tal Afar, some 70 km west of Mosul.
The presence of armored division and the Hashd Shaabi is aimed at surrounding Mosul from the west to cut off the escape route from Mosul and the neighboring Syria.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi arrived in Mosul to visit the security forces and meet with top military commanders, just hours after the troops recaptured the main government complex in the old Mosul city center.
"They (IS militants) have two choices, either they surrender and we promise they will have fair trial and the other choice they will be killed," Abadi told reporters in Mosul as he was wearing the black uniform of the CTS forces. "Some (of IS militants) are escaping but even the escape path is closed and they have no hope, that's why they should surrender."
On Feb. 19, Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced the start of an offensive to drive extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul.
Late in January, Abadi declared the liberation of the eastern side of 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.