Iraqi forces, backed by the US, have liberated the whole eastern section of Mosul from the Islamic State (Isis) on Wednesday (18 January 2017), three months since the military operation to retake Iraq's second largest city began.

Iraqi Army Lieutenant General Talib Shaghati hailed the achievement as a big victory and refereed to the success of the assault as unprecedented. Shaghati, who commands Iraq's counter-terrorism forces said in the town of Bartella to the east of Mosul that plans were now being drawn up to retake the east of the city, the Associated Press has reported.

In recent weeks, the Iraqi military has regained the initiative against IS after their offensive stalled because of inclement weather and stiff resistance by the militant group.

The bitter fighting in Mosul has been characterised by street by street combat and counter attacks by IS, which has used a warren of tunnels to move around the city. The group has unleashed waves of suicide bomb attacks against government forces and used civilians as human shields.

While the Iraqi government has been quick to seize on the liberation of the east of the city as a key victory, some skirmishes have continued on the east bank of the Tigris that divides Mosul in two.

Iraqi Special Forces Major Ali Hussein said his unit was still pushing into the Ghabat area along the river bank, and added that small arms fire could be heard from the area with at least one civilian wounded by mortar fire in Wednesday's fighting.

Mosul Isis
Iraqis walking down a street while smoke rises in the background following a car-bomb explosion in eastern Mosul Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP

Mosul is now IS's last stronghold in the country, having been claimed by the group in the summer of 2014 as it crossed from Syria, capturing large swathes of northern Iraq.

Since the start of the operation in October, the fighting has left more than 148,000 people homeless, according to the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees agency. As many as 12,500 people have left their homes in the past week, it has reported.