Key dates in battle for Mosul

Iraqi special forces patrol the town of Bartalla, on the outskirts of Mosul, on January 18, 2017 (AFP Photo/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE)

Baghdad (AFP) - Iraqi government forces launched a major offensive to recapture the city of Mosul from the Islamic State jihadist group on October 17, 2016.

On Wednesday, the head of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), Staff General Talib al-Sheghati, said they now controlled the entire eastern side of the city, though districts to the west of the Tigris River are still firmly in IS hands.

Here are key dates:

- Battle for Mosul Begins -

- October 17: Iraqi forces launch a drive to force IS out of Mosul, where the jihadist group declared an Islamic caliphate in June 2014.

IS overran Mosul and swathes of other territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014, sweeping aside security forces ill-prepared to face the assault.

Around 30,000 troops from army, police and counter-terrorism units are thrown into the long-awaited counter-attack with air and ground support from the US-led coalition.

By the end of October, the army has recaptured the Christian village of Qaraqosh, 15 kilometres (10 miles) from Mosul. Dozens of other nearby towns are retaken within two weeks.

- Entering Mosul -

- November 1: The army says it has entered Mosul itself for the first time since June 2014.

- November 3: IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi breaks a year-long silence to urge his fighters to defend Mosul to the death, and the advance of Iraqi forces begins to slow down.

- November 8: Kurdish peshmerga fighters say they have reached Bashiqa, a dozen kilometres (about eight miles) north of Mosul.

- November 13: Iraq says it has recaptured Nimrud, an ancient city southeast of Mosul.

- November 23: Shiite-dominated paramilitary units known as Hashed al-Shaabi say they have cut IS supply lines between Mosul and Raqa, the self-declared jihadist capital 400 kilometres (250 miles) to the west in Syria.

- Change of tactics -

- December 27: Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says Iraqi forces need another three months to eliminate IS fighters putting up stiff resistance with car bombs, mortar attacks and sniper fire.

- December 29: Government troops end a two-week pause by launching the second phase of their offensive with a change of military tactics.

- January 4: A US-led coalition spokesman indicates the number of Western advisors in the battle has doubled to around 450.

- Tigris beachhead -

- January 8: Iraqi units reach the Tigris River that divides Mosul and take up positions near one of the city's five bridges, which have been knocked out one by one in air strikes.

- January 14: CTS units take control of the sprawling campus of Mosul University.

The United Nations puts the number of displaced persons at over 125,000 since the offensive began, of which some 14,000 have been able to move back into their homes. The number of estimated military casualties has yet to be released.

- Halfway there -

- January 18: General al-Sheghati announces "the liberation... of the left bank" of the Tigris River, two days after Iraqi forces reach the iconic Nabi Yunus shrine, also known as "Jonah's tomb" and which IS destroyed in 2014.

The western side of Mosul, home to the old city and traditional jihadists' bastions, is expected to offer much stiffer resistance.

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