MOSUL, Iraq, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi security forces on Friday pushed the remaining Islamic State (IS) militants into a small pocket in the Old City at the bank of Tigris River in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The federal police freed the commercial area of Souq al-Saghir and seized the adjacent al-Najafi thoroughfare after heavy clashes with the extremist militants, a security source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) forces and the army's 9th Armored Division squeezed the remaining IS militants into old houses and narrow alleys of the Old City stretching on the bank of the Tigris River, after they seized part of the neighborhoods of Shahwan and Ras al-Kour, the source said.
Meanwhile, the soldiers of the 9th Division killed Abu Zaid, an IS local leader, and seven of his aides near a mosque in the Old City, the Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a brief statement.
The fighting in the Old City is becoming heavier as Iraqi forces push the extremist IS militants into the strip of land along the bank of the Tigris River. The desperate militants have been increasingly resorting to suicide attacks and showing stiff resistance that slowed the troops progress in the recent days.
And there were a large number of roadside bombs and booby-trapped buildings, in addition to IS snipers taking positions in the buildings and narrow alleys of heavily-populated neighborhoods, where thousands of civilians still live under IS rule.
Also in the day, an Iraqi army and police force from Salahudin Province, backed by helicopter gunships, rescued two Iraqi journalists and two police officers, who were surrounded by the extremist militants at a compound in the village of Imam Gharbi with some security members, a security source from Salahudin told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Earlier in the day, the source said the reporter Su'dad Faris and the photographer Harb Hazza, who work for Huna Salahudin satellite channel, were killed in Imam Gharbi village near the town of Shirqat, some 280 km north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
The two journalists were covering clashes of the Iraqi forces who were fighting to free the village which IS militants took control of the day before.
The troops freed the besieged group in the village, and are still fighting to dislodge the extremist militants holed up in the village, the source said.
Imam Gharbi village was freed from IS during the troops advance earlier this year, but dozens of militants came from the desert area early on Thursday and took control of it, the source said.
The Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate said in a report that up to 14 Iraqi journalists were killed in 2016, and more than 455 journalists have been killed in the country since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
Iraq is considered one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, who have been frequently targeted since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Iraqi former leader Saddam Hussein.
The incident came as Iraqi security forces, backed by the anti-IS international coalition, were simultaneously conducting a major offensive to drive IS militants out of their major stronghold in western Mosul.