Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) carry weapons during clashes with so-called Islamic State (IS) near Mosul University, 13 January 2017Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionIraqi troops are reported to have taken more ground

Iraqi forces have met heavy resistance after launching an attack to recapture Mosul University from so-called Islamic State (IS), military officials say.

Elite troops entered the compound on Friday in an attempt to secure the area in the last major IS stronghold in Iraq.

It comes amid reports that Iraqi forces have reached a second bridge in the city.

The latest phase of a push to retake Mosul was launched last month.

Friday’s operation to capture the University, in the eastern part of the city, has seen government forces gain control of several buildings in the area, local media report.

The complex has been used by IS militants as a base. Iraqi officials have also said that the group has used the site’s chemistry laboratories to produce chemical weapons.

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Map of Mosul in Iraq

Meanwhile, the Iraqi military said in a statement that troops had reached al-Hurriya, or Freedom, Bridge, after inflicting “heavy losses” on IS militants.

Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) have now, according to reports, taken the east sides of two of the five main bridges across the Tigris rive, after reaching the southernmost Fourth Bridge just days ago.

The bridges, which provide a link from Mosul’s north and south, were targeted by coalition air strikes in October with the aim of limiting the ability of IS to resupply or reinforce their positions in the east.

The strikes caused sufficient damage to the bridges but they were purposely not destroyed in order for them to be repaired more easily after the city’s recapture, analysts said.

Since the offensive to recapture Mosul was relaunched two weeks ago, government forces have made swift progress on the eastern side of the city.

The campaign began in October but got off to a slow start in the face of tough IS defence and counter-attacks.

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