Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that Iraqi forces had begun “moving” against ISIS militants in western Mosul, an area the group still fully holds.
He did not give details of exactly what actions Iraqi forces were undertaking on the western side of the city. Abadi was giving a statement to reporters broadcast live on state TV.
Iraqi special forces had already pushed deeper into ISIS-held districts in eastern Mosul and army units fought the insurgents inside a military base in the city’s north, officials said during the day on Tuesday.
Three months after the start of the U.S.-backed campaign, ISIS has been driven out of about three quarters of the eastern districts of its Iraqi stronghold, ceding large areas along the Tigris River, which bisects Mosul from north to south.
Renewed military progress is accounted for over the last two weeks, thanks to improved tactics and coordination between different military units, U.S. and Iraqi military officials say.
Advances slowed towards the end of last year as the military tried to avoid hitting civilians, they say, but now the capture of the entire east bank is imminent and will allow attacks in the city’s west, still fully held by the militants.
Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), which has spearheaded advances inside Mosul, holds large sections of the east bank further north from where the federal police operate.
Rapid response units of the Iraqi federal police have secured many southeastern districts along the Tigris, spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Abdel Amir al-Mohammedawi, said.
Some ISIS fighters had fled by boat across the river, taking civilians as human shields, Mohammedawi said.
“They fled the eastern bank for the west, and took women and children,” he told Reuters.