Iraqi forces reclaim six Mosul districts from Islamic State
Iraqi forces said that they had managed to recapture six districts in eastern Mosul on Friday, Reuters reported.
A military statement said that an offensive by an officer of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) and his troops had the militants completely surrounded.
The neighbourhoods of Malayeen, Samah, Khadra, Karkukli, Quds and Karama had been taken over by the CTS troops with heavy losses to the militant fighters.
The CTS units may try to push all the way to the Tigris river, which runs through the centre of Mosul, an officer of the special forces told Reuters on Thursday.
A campaign was launched three weeks ago by Iraqi troops and special forces, Shi'ite militias, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and other groups backed by US-led air strikes to retake Mosul, the urban stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) militants.
The Islamic State also holds large parts of neighbouring Syria.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the IS leader was reported as saying that there could be no retreat in a "total war" against anti-IS forces.
Mosul is home to nearly 1.5 million people and the United Nations (UN) has warned of a potential humanitarian crisis and a refugee exodus. A UN report says that 21,000 people have been displaced since the start of the Mosul campaign.
Iraqi officials, however, say that the Islamic State is holding the civilian population as human shields.
Mosul residents, who spoke to Reuters by telephone, said that Islamic State fighters had deployed artillery and rocket launchers around residential areas.
"We saw Daesh (Islamic State) fighters installing a heavy anti-aircraft machine gun alongside a rocket launchpad, and mortars as well," a Mosul resident told Reuters.
Militants stormed a mosque and several houses early on Friday in Shirqat, a town about 100 km (60 miles) south of Mosul, a local police officer said. The attack killed seven soldiers and fighters from the Shi'ite Popular Mobilisation force, Reuters reported.
Security forces soon declared a curfew in the region.
(WION with inputs from Reuters)