March 18 (UPI) -- The Iraqi army has taken control of two key neighborhoods in western Mosul after fierce fighting with the Islamic State on Saturday.
A military spokesman said government forces liberated the al-Kur and al-Tawafa neighborhoods in Mosul in their months-long campaign to drive out militants loyal to the Islamic State terrorist group. The neighborhoods are part of Mosul's Old City and include an important symbolic landmark. Government forces are now in control of the Grand Nori mosque, where the Islamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the caliphate in 2014.
Still, the government said about 600,000 civilians live in the densely populated portions of the city still under Islamic State control.
The success came days after government forces took control of two of the five bridges in the city that span the Tigris River, which separates the city's eastern and western halves.
Government advances have slowed in recent days due to bad weather. Also, the narrow streets of Mosul's Old City have made it difficult for large military vehicles to navigate.