MOSUL, Iraq, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces battling Islamic State (IS) militants on Thursday freed new areas from Islamic State (IS) militants after the troops initiated a new front at the northwestern edge of IS stronghold in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The army's 9th Armored Division and the elite forces of the federal police, known as Rapid Response, retook control of most of Mushairfah district, including the water purification facility, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Amir Yarallah, from the Joint Operations Command (JOC), said in a statement.
After heavy clashes during the day, the troops managed to defeat the IS defensive lines and advanced into Mushairfah, according to the JOC.
In the afternoon, the troops took new positions near the residential buildings in Harmat area, where fierce clashes with IS militants are expected to break out in the coming days, the JOC said in a separate statement.
Other troops cut off the IS supply routes between IS-held Kanisah area and the nearby IS strongholds in Najjar and 17 Tamouz neighborhoods, according to the statement.
Thursday advance came after the troops launched a new push in the early morning from the northwestern edge of Mosul toward the areas of Mushairfah, Kanisah and Harmat at the northern part of the western side of the city.
The new push would help the special forces of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and the interior ministry federal police, who are making slow progress in the southern part of Mosul's western side due to the stiff resistance of the extremist militants at the densely-populated areas of the old city center, where roughly 400,000 residents are believed to still be trapped under IS rule.
IS militants are now surrounded by the troops in the northern part of Mosul's western side, which includes the old city center.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced the start of an offensive on February 19 to drive extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of the Tigris River which bisects the city.
Late in January, Abadi declared the liberation of Mosul's eastern side, or the left bank of Tigris, after over 100 days of fighting IS militants.
However, the western part of Mosul, with its narrow streets and heavily populated neighborhoods, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces.
Mosul, 400 km north of Iraqi capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their posts and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.