MOSUL, Iraq, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces battling Islamic State (IS) militants on Wednesday liberated a new neighborhood amid heavy clashes with IS in a push that initiated a new front in the northwestern edge of IS stronghold in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) freed al-Rifai neighborhood and raised the Iraqi flag over some of its buildings after killing many IS militants, Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.
Two days ago, the CTS troops freed the adjacent neighborhood of al-Uraybi amid heavy clashes with the extremist militants.
The recapture of the neighborhoods came a day after the CTS forces, army and the elite forces of the federal police, known as Rapid Response, initiated a new push into four neighborhoods, including Rifai and Uraybi, and managed to defeat the IS defensive lines after fierce street-to-street clashes.
The troops are still fighting in the other two neighborhoods of Iqtisadiyn and July 17 after they seized large parts of them.
The troops are now pushing to seize the remaining neighborhoods in north and northwest of the city center to tighten noose around the IS redoubt in the neighborhoods of the old city center in the western side of Mosul, including old areas around the historical al-Nuri Mosque.
Late in January, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, declared the liberation of Mosul's eastern side, or the left bank of Tigris, after over 100 days of fighting against IS militants.
On February 19, Abadi announced the start of an offensive 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.
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 Iraq's capital 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.