Iraqi security forces on Friday pushed forward slowly and freed new districts in the city of Mosul from the Islamic State (IS) militants, as the extremist militants use civilians as cover, security sources said.
The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) broke through the IS defensive lines and entered the districts of Qadsiyah and Baker in the eastern side of Mosul, leaving many militants killed and destroying several booby-trapped cars, said a statement by a media office affiliated to the Joint Operations Command (JOC).
The troops managed to recapture more than half of the district in the afternoon after heavy street battles with the militants, according to Lieutenant General Abdul-Amir Yarallah from the JOC.
Earlier in the week, hundreds of the CTS commandos and Iraqi army made a significant progress from three directions at the eastern side of Mosul, locally known as the left bank of the Tigris River, and managed to seize six districts.
The advance unleashed the most intense street battles against IS militants since the offensive to retake the city began more than three weeks ago.
The offensive has slowed recently as the security forces, including the CTS commandos, have pushed into more densely populated areas of eastern Mosul, where they cannot rely as much on heavy shelling and airstrikes because of the risk to civilians who have been told to stay in their homes.
Nevertheless, the fierce battles inside Mosul pushed the number of civilians who were displaced from their homes to around 37,730 since the start of the military offensive on October 17, according to the recent report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
On Oct. 17, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of a major offensive to retake Mosul, the country’s second largest city. Since then, the Iraqi security forces have inched to the eastern fringes of Mosul and made progress on other routes around the city, preparing for a major battle to storm the city and drive out IS militants.
Mosul, some 400 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq’s northern and western regions.