MOSUL, Iraq, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Fierce clashes between Iraqi security forces and extremist Islamic State (IS) militants continued on Wednesday and the government troops seized two more neighborhoods in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) completely freed the neighborhoods of Shuhadaa and Mansour in the southwestern part of Mosul's western side, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command said in a statement.
The CTS special forces killed dozens of IS militants in the heavy clashes with IS militants in the two neighborhoods, 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, according to the statement.
Near Mosul, the army's 9th armored division and the Shiite paramilitary Hashd Shaabi unit freed Tal Khazaf villages from IS militants near the area of Tulul Attshana in west of Mosul, while the troops continued clearing the freed villages from roadside bombs and booby-trapped houses, the statement said.
Meanwhile, the troops also retook control of Badoush prison compound and raised the Iraqi flag over its building in northwest of Mosul, the statement said, adding that battles are underway in the nearby residential buildings.
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.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced the start of an offensive on Feb. 19 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.