'Milestone' advance in Mosul for Iraqi troops
Iraqi and coalition officials say forces advancing from the north and east have converged in Mosul, where they have been waging a three-month offensive against Isil.
The US special envoy to the anti-Isil coalition, Brett McGurk, called yesterday's advance a "milestone" in a statement posted on Twitter.
Brigadier General Haider Fadhil, of Iraq's special forces, confirmed the advance.
Iraq's special forces have largely been leading the push in Mosul's east, while the Iraqi army has been advancing in the north of the city.
Iraqi forces have retaken around a third of the city since the operation began in mid-October.
Iraqi forces made advances against Isil in eastern Mosul and fought the militants in areas near the Tigris river on Wednesday, military officials said, keeping up the momentum of a renewed offensive in the jihadists's last major Iraqi stronghold.
Elite troops pushed into several neighbourhoods in the east and north-east of the city in the past few days as they tried to reach the Tigris River bisecting Mosul before launching an offensive on the west, all of which the militants still hold.
The counter-terrorism service (CTS) was advancing into the north-eastern Sadeeq and 7th Nissan districts, according to a senior commander on the ground.
A Reuters reporter in eastern Mosul saw CTS forces fighting Isil militants in Sadeeq, firing towards Mosul University and into the adjacent Hadba area, which army units advancing from the north had breached a day earlier.
"Operations are ongoing and this district will be liberated very shortly, God willing," Lieutenant General Abdelwahab al-Saadi told Reuters on the front line in Sadeeq, one block from the strategically important university complex.
Tank shells, machine gun fire and air strikes from a US-led coalition backing the Iraqis targeted Isil gunmen holed up in a handful of buildings nearby. The militants detonated several car bombs and returned gunfire.
During their attack, Iraqi soldiers repeatedly diverted their attention to the sky to fire at white commercial drones circling at a few hundred metres in the air.
They were unable to down the aircraft, which Isil uses for reconnaissance, to record its suicide attacks and to drop grenades.
Securing Hadba, Sadeeq and other nearby districts would allow the CTS to advance further towards the Tigris.