23 killed in Mosul clashes

"We are facing stiff resistance from Daesh fighters with snipers and mortars", an Iraqi official said.

They are also striking IS with armed drones as part of a renewed push launched on March 5 that has forced the jihadists out of several neighbourhoods and key sites, including the famed Mosul museum.

"ISIS is trapped", Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition against IS, told reporters in Baghdad Sunday, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.

Soldiers from the 9th Armoured Division scored a key victory on Saturday night when they cut the last road out of west Mosul, said Brett McGurk, the United States envoy to the worldwide anti-IS coalition.

Hajj Ahmed, a 55-year-old wearing a dark coat over a traditional robe who had recently fled Mosul, said that people were living under IS siege.

"We are very committed to not just defeating them in Mosul, but making sure these guys can not escape", he said.

"Around more than a third of the right bank (west Mosul) is under the control of our units", Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi told AFP.

USA and Iraqi officials are citing gains in the battle to retake western Mosul from Islamic State, saying pro-government troops have pushed farther into militant-held territory and cut off potential escape routes.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, announced the start of an offensive on February 19 to drive extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul.

But he added: "The battle is not easy... we are fighting an irregular enemy who hides among the citizens and uses tactics of booby-trapping, explosions and suicide bombers, and the operation is taking place with precision to preserve the lives of the citizens".

Iraqi forces are moving to seal off the entire Old City from the rest of Mosul.

But Iraqi forces, backed by coalition air strikes and military advisers on the ground, have managed to retake large areas in the past five months.

The recapture of the two neighborhoods brought the CTS troops closer to the western edge of Mosul's densely populated old city center, where hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to still be trapped under IS rule. The Ministry of Immigration and Displacement said on Tuesday that in recent days, nearly 13,000 displaced people from western Mosul had been received seeking assistance and temporary accommodation each day.

"Raqqa remains their [ISIS's] administrative capital, it's where we think a lot of their leaders are located, it's where we think they are planning a lot of attacks around the world", said McGurk.

Meanwhile, a security source said 11 civilians were killed by a suspected US -led coalition airstrike in western Mosul on Sunday.

Troops have also regained control of the city's airport, important government facilities, and a military base.

The sight and sounds of combat were evident in western Mosul on Tuesday as heavy fighting resumed.

  • Leroy Wright