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Iraqi forces draw closer to recapturing Mosul's city center after taking Mithaq district

By Andrew V. Pestano
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters watch smoke billowing as they deploy in an area in Dohuk near Mosul during an operation to attack Islamic State militants on October 20. On Tuesday, Iraq's Ministry of Defense said Iraqi security forces freed Mosul's eastern Mithaq district to advance further to the Tigris River near the city's center in the battle against the Islamic State. Photo by Shvan Harki/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/380448b697070e78e054d4cbc2adfcc2/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters watch smoke billowing as they deploy in an area in Dohuk near Mosul during an operation to attack Islamic State militants on October 20. On Tuesday, Iraq's Ministry of Defense said Iraqi security forces freed Mosul's eastern Mithaq district to advance further to the Tigris River near the city's center in the battle against the Islamic State. Photo by Shvan Harki/UPI | License Photo

MOSUL, Iraq, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Iraqi government forces freed Mosul's eastern Mithaq district and are advancing on the city's core in the drive to free the city from control by the Islamic State.

"Rapid Intervention Forces managed, at noon today, to liberate al-Mithaq neighborhood in the eastern side of the city of Mosul," the Iraqi Defense Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. "Rapid Intervention Forces inflicted heavy human and material losses on the Islamic State, as well as raising Iraqi flag over the buildings of the neighborhood."

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Iraq's army said it now controls 45 eastern neighborhoods of the city, adding it is almost in full control of the city's east side, east of the Tigris River.

The Tigris River partially splits Mosul into an western section and a larger eastern section. The Mosul Airport is west of the river.

The offensive on Tuesday to capture the Mithaq industrial district was aided by coalition airstrikes and lasted nearly seven hours, Rudaw reported.

The second phase of the battle to retake Mosul -- which is led by Iraqi security forces and aided by the Kurdish Peshmerga, a Shiite-led militia, and the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State -- began Thursday after the offensive was suspended for weeks.

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