2016-10-31 17:42:11

to make the first break into the city, which has been held by Islamic State militants for more than two years.

After an early-morning push, forces from Iraq’s elite counterterrorism units had taken positions on the outskirts of the suburb of Gogjali by sundown, said Lt. Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Assadi, head of the force. They had progressed faster than expected, he said.

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have faced tough resistance from the militants since launching their offensive to recapture Mosul — the Islamic State’s largest stronghold in Iraq — two weeks ago. The militants have sent car bombs and planted booby traps along roads, but Iraqi forces have pressed forward.

Commanders have said they expect the toughest fight to be on the city’s outskirts as the militants try to keep the fight outside.

The presence of more than a million civilians also complicates the battle, making air support more difficult.

“We are right on the outskirts,” Assadi said. Earlier in the day, the elite units, which have led most of the country’s battles against the militants, retook the village of Bazwaya, the last village between them and the city. The Islamic State dispatched three car bombs, but they were all detonated by airstrikes, he said.

Lt. Gen. Abdelamir Yarallah, a senior army commander, said in a statement that the city’s eastern bank was under direct fire.

“We will cut the head off Daesh and will destroy them,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi told the state news agency al-Iraqiya, using an alternative name for the group. “Daesh has no part in Iraq.”

Saying advancing forces were close, he urged civilians to stay inside their homes.