Iraqi forces recapture 2 IS-held neighborhoods in Mosul

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Iraqi forces on Saturday freed two more neighborhoods after heavy clashes against Islamic State (IS) militants as part of a push that initiated a new front in the northern part of IS stronghold in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.

The army, federal police and interior ministry's elite Rapid Response forces completely freed the neighborhoods of July 17 after days of heavy clashes, Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.

The recapture of the neighborhood came six days after the troops launched a new push into four neighborhoods of the northern part of Mosul's western side.

Meanwhile, the CTS forces retook control of the neighborhood of al-Rabie in the northern part of the IS stronghold in Mosul's western side and raised the Iraqi flag on some of its buildings, Yarallah said in a separate statement.

The troops are now pushing to advance further to the remaining neighborhoods on the northern edge of the city center to tighten noose around the IS redoubt in the neighborhoods of Mosul's old city center, where roughly 400,000 residents are believed to still be trapped under IS rule.

Also in the day, the CTS forces announced their mission complete despite the ongoing battles in a few neighborhoods in north of the IS-held old city center in the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of the Tigris River which bisects the city.

"The forces of the Counter-Terrorism Service had completed their assigned mission on the right bank, but stood ready to carry out any mission ordered by the Prime Minister," Talib Sheghati, the CTS chief, said in a brief statement.

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 more than 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.

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.

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