Mosul: Elite Iraqi units join forces to advance west
Two elite Iraq units have joined forces in Mosul to advance west into the city against the Islamic State group, officers have said.
The Rapid Response Division reached the northern edge of al-Intisar neighbourhood, while the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) advanced to the southern side of the adjoining al-Quds area.
The two neighbourhoods are located on the eastern side of Mosul, where security forces have retaken multiple areas from IS, but the city's west is still completely in militants' hands.
"God willing, al-Intisar neighbourhood is completely liberated," Brigadier General Mahdi Abbas Abdullah, the commander of the Rapid Response Division's 2nd Brigade, told AFP.
"We will become one front" and will advance "towards the river," he said, referring to the Tigris, which divides Mosul in two.
Lieutenant Colonel Athir al-Basri of Rapid Response also confirmed its forces and those from CTS had reached the same main street that divides al-Intisar and al-Quds.
Iraqi forces launched the massive operation to retake Mosul on 17 October, eventually pushing into the city from the east.
On Wednesday, Iraqi forces announced the "second phase" of the battle for the eastern side of the city, marking the start of a new round of intensive fighting after progress had previously slowed to a crawl.
Earlier in the week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the country would need three months to eliminate IS.
What began as a rapid push into Mosul, which the extremists have occupied since June 2014, has turned into a hellish block-by-block war, with IS inflicting high casualty rates on advancing Iraqi forces.
The Iraqi forces now control 44 percent of Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the capital, a spokesman for the Iraqi joint operations command has said.