Army says it has seized strategic university complex used as base by ISIL fighters following two days of fierce clashes.
The Iraqi army announced on Sunday that all districts of Mosul east of the Tigris River had been cleared of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) fighters, after retaking two areas.
Government forces also said that the army has sealed control of the east, with the exception of Al-Rashidiya neighbourhood, located north of the city.
A military statement announced that the Iraqi army recaptured “Al-Milayeen neighbourhood and Al-Binaa al-Jahiz area, and raised the Iraqi flag over the buildings.”
“These are the last neighbourhoods of the centre of the city (on) the left bank,” the statement added, referring to eastern Mosul.
According to the statement, federal forces had retaken control of the road linking Mosul, Iraq’s second city, to Dohuk, a provincial capital in the west of the autonomous region of Kurdistan.
The Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, had already declared the city’s east “liberated” on Wednesday, and has previously said that the group would be driven out of the country by April.
Residents of parts of eastern Mosul have already attempted to resume a normal daily life, despite the circulation of goods being restricted.
Also on Sunday, dozens of students gathered at the gate of the University of Mosul, which had been the group’s headquarters throughout its rule which began in 2014.
They celebrated the recapture of one of the country’s most prestigious institutions – now severely damaged due to the fighting – by chanting slogans, raising an Iraqi flag above the campus entrance, and a banner calling for its reopening.
In a separate incident, ISIL destroyed a landmark hotel in an attack in western Mosul on Friday, in an attempt to prevent government forces advancing from potentially utilising it as a base.
According to witnesses, the explosion on the Mosul hotel left the pyramid-shaped building tilted to one side.
The hotel stands close to the Tigris River, which divides the city. Government forces are reportedly preparing to attack the western bank in efforts force out ISIL group fighters in Mosul, their last major stronghold in the country.
The battle for Mosul
The recapture of Mosul is likely to end the group’s self-styled caliphate in it areas seized in 2014, however ISIL would still be capable of fighting a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq.
Since the US-led offensive began on October 17, select forces have retaken a quarter of Mosul in the biggest ground operation in Iraq.
Although ISIL fighters are hugely outnumbered in Mosul, they have spread themselves among the city’s residents, hindering government forces who are attempting to avoid civilian casualties.
Thousands have fled their homes in Mosul since the military’s push began, while many remain in their homes despite food and water shortages.
Iraq’s military officials and its foreign allies were expected to discuss the strategy required to conquer the west bank of Mosul, which is still under full ISIL control.