Iraqi forces said on Tuesday that they killed a top commander of the Islamic State (IS) in Mosul as a battle for the militants’ last stronghold in Iraq entered a key phase.
Reuters quoted federal police as saying that they killed Abu Abdul Rahman al-Ansary, military commander of Mosul’s Old City, during operations to clear Bab al-Tob district.
With many IS leaders having already retreated from Mosul, Ansary’s death comes as blow to the militants as they defend their shrinking area of control in Iraq’s second largest city.
Fighting intensified on Tuesday after heavy rains the previous day.
IS snipers were slowing the advance of special forces units units on a bridge linking western and eastern Mosul but the elite forces were still inching forward, officers were quoted as saying.
Government forces also pushed into areas of western Mosul, Islamic State’s last redoubt in the city that has been the de facto capital of their self-declared caliphate.
Capturing the Iron Bridge would mean Iraqi forces hold three of the five bridges in Mosul that span the Tigris, all of which have been damaged by the militants and US-led air strikes. T
The southernmost two bridges have already been retaken.
Near the Mosul Museum, Iraq forces used armored vehicles and tanks to attack snipers pinning down troops clearing areas around the bridge.
Since the offensive began in October, Iraqi forces with US-led coalition support have retaken eastern Mosul and about 30 percent of the west from the militants, who are fiercely defending their last stronghold in Iraq.
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