NORTH OF MOSUL, Iraq/BAGHDAD - Elite Iraqi troops bridged a river under the cover of darkness to seize a district of Mosul in an unprecedented night raid early on Friday, part of a new phase in the battle to capture the city from Islamic State after weeks of slowed momentum.
Since last week, Iraqi forces have launched a renewed push to seize ground in the nearly three month-old offensive to capture the city, after progress stalled last month because of a need to slow the advance to protect civilians.
Iraqi forces would soon "cut the head of the snake" and drive the ultra-hardline group from its largest urban stronghold, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said in a speech on Friday.
The battle for Mosul is the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. A victory by the 100,000-strong US-backed pro-government force would probably spell the end for Islamic State's self-styled caliphate that has ruled over millions of people in Iraq and Syria since 2014.