Iraqi special forces battling Islamic State (IS) fighters in the city of Mosul say they made further advances against IS on January 9, pushing militants out of another eastern district and edging closer to linking up with army units nearby.
The Counterterrorism Service (CTS) said it recaptured the Baladiyat neighborhood and was moving to seize the Sukkar area, overlooking Mosul University in the city’s northeast.
Sami Al-Askari, an CTS officer in Mosul told the Reuters news agency that the "area is very important."
"It is a central district ... If it falls we will control the forests, the presidential palaces, and the eastern bank of the Tigris," he said.
On January 8, the CTS said it had reached the Tigris River running through the center of Mosul, marking a milestone in a U.S.-backed offensive aimed at reclaiming the city from IS.
The CTS is part of a 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Kurdish fighters, and Shi'ite militias backed by U.S. air power and fighting to drive out IS from Mosul.
The offensive to recapture Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, was launched on October 17.
Mosul is the last major urban center in Iraq still controlled by IS, which seized around a third of the country in 2014.