Iraqi special forces said they pushed deeper into Mosul on Friday despite heavy resistance from Islamic State militants using civilians as cover, and were holding half a dozen city neighborhoods seized in the last 10 days, Reuters reported.
The elite Counter Terrorism Service troops broke through Islamic State defense lines to enter the city early last week and have since been embroiled in a brutal, close-quarter combat with waves of suicide bombers and snipers.
Security forces and army infantry divisions, backed by a U.S.-led air force, are preparing to move on southern and northern districts of Mosul in coming days, to step up pressure on the militants.
Kurdish peshmerga and Shi'ite paramilitary forces are holding territory to the northeast and to the west.
On the eastern front, special forces pushed into the Qadisiya al-Thaniya district, on the northern edge of the small pocket of neighborhoods they control so far, Sabah al-Numani, spokesman for the Counter Terrorism Service, told Reuters."We have encountered heavy resistance from the enemy,"
he said, describing what he called "obstructive patrols"
of militant forces trying to hold up the advance."We are facing the most difficult form of urban warfare, fighting with the presence of civilians, but our forces are trained for this sort of combat,"
Military officers have told Reuters that the fighting is some of the most lethal they have seen, with small groups of militants using a vast network of tunnels and narrow streets to launch an apparently endless sequence of attacks against troops.
The International Organization for Migration says nearly 48,000 people have been displaced by the fighting, still a relatively low figure compared to a United Nations warning before the campaign of a possible exodus of 700,000 or 800,000.
Inside the city of up to 1.5 million people, residents said this week that the militants had killed at least 20 people and displayed their bodies - five of them crucified - around Mosul as a warning against acting as informants for Iraqi forces.
The U.N. human rights office said a total of 40 people were reportedly shot on Tuesday for "treason and collaboration" with Iraqi security forces, and a 27-year-old man was shot for using a mobile phone.