Iraqi special forces have reportedly made further gains in eastern Mosul pushing Islamic State (Isis) militants back as they are close to unite with army units advancing from other sides. With support from personnel from the US-led coalition, air raids were launched on the jihadists, who retaliated with sniper fire and mortars.

In recent days, many civilians returned to their homes in areas that were recaptured by the Iraqi forces from IS (Daesh). The Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) was quoted by Reuters as saying that it was working to recapture areas overlooking Mosul University – northeast of the city – after seizing a district nearby.

Major-General Sami al-Aradi of the CTS told Reuters, "The Baladiyat neighborhood is done [recaptured] and Sukkar should be done before nightfall."

"This area is very important because it overlooks the university (which) is a central district ... If it falls we will control the forests, the presidential palaces and the eastern bank of the Tigris," he added.

On 8 January, CTS advanced towards Tigris river in eastern Mosul and recaptured large parts of the area. Iraqi forces will now look to launch assaults on western districts in Mosul, which are still under the control of Isis.

Major General Najm al-Jubbouri said, "They will soon liberate other areas and hopefully finish the eastern side ... God willing, we will soon announce the liberation of the entire eastern side from Daesh (Islamic State)."

According to Reuters, Isis militants have been resisting the advance of Iraqi forces with suicide car bomb attacks and snipers and managed to slowdown them down in November and December by using tunnels that were close to civilian population. As the terror outfit is losing its grip over Mosul, it has increased attacks in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities over the last few weeks.

Mosul assault
Members of the Iraqi rapid response forces ride a military vehicle during a battle with Islamic State militants in the nearby district of Mithaq in eastern Mosul, Iraq, on 5 January, 2017. REUTERS/Khalid al Mousily