Mosul (Iraq) (AFP) - Iraqi forces retook full control of one the largest neighbourhoods of west Mosul Tuesday from the Islamic State group after a week of intense fighting, a top commander said.
"This morning, the heroes of the Counter-Terrorism Service on the western axis succeeded in fully clearing Tenek neighbourhood," Staff Lieutenant General Abdulwahab al-Saadi told AFP in Mosul.
The elite forces have been spearheading a massive offensive launched in mid-October 2016 to retake Mosul, the country's second city and the last major Iraqi bastion of the jihadists' now crumbling "caliphate".
The eastern side of the city, which is divided by the Tigris river, was recaptured in January, and a push on the west bank of Mosul launched the following month has made steady progress despite fierce resistance.
Tenek, on the western edge of the city, "is one of the largest neighbourhoods on the western side of Mosul," said Saadi, one of the top CTS commanders in Iraq.
"It used to be one of the main strongholds for terrorist groups," he said.
Saadi said the fighting in Tenek was fierce and lasted a full week.
"More than 20 car bombs were destroyed, dozens of terrorist militants were killed. Their bodies are still on the streets and inside houses," he said.
Only a few hundred IS fighters are believed to remain in west Mosul, most of them hunkering down in the Old City amidst several hundred thousand trapped civilians.
Iraqi forces have retaken neighbourhoods to the south, west and north of the Old City, tightening the noose around IS before a high-risk final assault.
The narrow streets of the Old City and its population density will force the Iraqi forces to conduct perilous dismounted operations which observers fear could yet allow holdout jihadists to stage a protracted last stand.