An Iraqi refugee girl waits with her parents to buy food from a local vendor behind the fence of the Khazir refugee camp near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aski Kalak, 40 km West of Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on November 21, 2016. (AFP/Xinhua)
BAGHDAD, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Friday continued heavy fighting against the Islamic State (IS) militants in the city of Mosul and so far the troops have freed a total of 20 districts in eastern part of the city, after more than a month since a major offensive was launched to drive out the extremist militants from their last major stronghold in the country, the Iraqi military said.
In eastern Mosul, the commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) fought heavy clashes with the militants in the districts of al-Bakr, Qahira and Zuhour, a statement by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said.
The number of districts that have been completely freed by the CTS commandos reached so far 20, the statement said.
In southeastern Mosul, the soldiers of the army's 9th armored Division continued their fierce clashes with IS militants in the districts of Intisar, Jadidat al-Mufti, al-Salam, Younis al-Sab'awi and Palestine, and have been trying to extend their foothold in the five districts, the JOC said.
The troops inside Mosul have met stubborn resistance from the extremist militants, who are fighting in small groups and move quickly throughout the districts in the eastern side of the city, locally named the left bank of the Tigris River that bisects the city.
The extremist groups frequently infiltrated behind the advanced CTS forces using tunnels or sneaking through dozens of houses and buildings.
Earlier in the day, a report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that after more than a month of military operations against IS militants in Mosul, some 72,990 civilians have fled their homes in the city and its adjacent districts and the number went up every day.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Oct. 17 announced a major offensive to retake Mosul, the country's second largest city.
Since then, the Iraqi security forces have inched to the eastern fringes of Mosul and made progress on other routes around the city.
Mosul, some 400 km north of Iraqi capital of Baghdad, has been under the IS control since June 2014, when Iraqi government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.