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Iraqi forces retake Mosul's university from 'Islamic State'

A day after forcing its way into the compound on Friday, Iraq's military says it has recaptured the entire university campus in Mosul. "Islamic State" (IS) militants had been using the buildings as a base.

Iraq's military hailed Saturday's retaking of the campus, which lies on the eastern side of Mosul, as a crucial strategic win.

"Security forces have fully liberated the Mosul University," General Taleb Sheghati al-Kenani, the commander of the elite terrorism-combat service, told state television al-Iraqiya.

"The forces seized chemicals in the laboratories of the universities and defused explosives and car bombs," he added, without providing details.

The elite Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) began its advance on the university, which "Islamic State" (IS) had been using as its headquarters in the area, on Friday.

The top CTS commander told al-Iraqiya TV that Iraqi forces had now recaptured 85 percent of the eastern side of the northern city, while IS still controls the west.

Moving west

The retaking of the university will now allow Iraqi forces to advance to the Tigris River, which divides the city. From there, they can launch attacks on IS-held areas in the west as they push to drive the extremist militia from its last urban stronghold in the country.

Iraqi forces, backed by US-led airstrikes, began a campaign to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in mid-October.

Irak Truppen nehmen Universität in Mossul ein (picture alliance/AP Photo/K. Mohammed)

Taking the university is a major strategic gain

The United Nations has said the militants seized nuclear materials used for scientific research from the university when they overran Mosul and vast areas of northern Iraq and eastern Syria in 2014.

IS has used chemical agents including mustard gas in a number of attacks in Iraq and Syria, US officials, rights groups and residents have said.

Also on Saturday, government troops took control of the eastern sides of a third of five bridges which cross the Tigris River.

The bridges were bombed by US-led warplanes late last year to help disrupt IS' resupply routes.

Analysts believe the western side, which is home to the old city and some of the jihadists' traditional bastions, is likely to offer the most resistance.

Watch video 01:41

Iraqi forces reach Tigris in Mosul offensive

mm/tj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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