Mosul (Iraq) (AFP) - Iraqi forces have retaken at least 80 percent of east Mosul from the Islamic State jihadist group, the spokesman of the special forces spearheading the campaign said on Wednesday.
"I think you can say that we have retaken 80 to 85 percent" of the eastern side of Mosul, Sabah al-Noman, spokesman for the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), told AFP in the city.
Tens of thousands of troops launched a huge offensive to retake Mosul, IS's last major bastion in Iraq, and areas around it on October 17.
The initial phase of the offensive saw a variety of forces retake significant swathes of land in little time but the going has been tough inside the city itself.
After a lull in operations, the CTS and other forces stepped up their coordination and, with increased air and advisory support from a US-led coalition, launched a fresh push just before the New Year.
Over the past two weeks, Iraqi forces have overran several districts and reached the Tigris River that runs through the heart of the city for the first time.
Combined with the destruction of all bridges over the river, that has made it difficult for IS fighters in east Mosul to resupply or escape to the west bank, which they still fully control.
The western side of Mosul, which is home to the old city and some of the jihadists' traditional strongholds, was always tipped as likely to offer the most resistance.