Middle East

US-backed Iraqi forces capture al-Hurriya bridge in Mosul: spokesperson

US-backed Iraqi forces on Monday captured Mosul's al-Hurriya bridge, which leads to the Islamic State-held old city center from the south, a military media officer told Reuters.

This bridge is the second to be secured by the Iraqi forces in the city, after securing one located further south, in the offensive that started on the western part of Mosul on February 19.

"We control the western end of the bridge," said a senior media officer with Rapid Response, the elite unit of the interior ministry leading the charge through the districts alongside the Tigris river.

All of Mosul's five bridges over the Tigris have been destroyed but their capture and repair would help the offensive against the militants, who have controlled the northern Iraqi city since 2014.

Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris on February 19.

Defeating the Islamic State in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, over parts of Iraq and Syria.

Baghdadi proclaimed the caliphate from Mosul's grand Nuri mosque in the old city center which is still under his followers' control.

The Iraqi forces are advancing toward the old city center form the south and the southwest.

(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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