Iraqi forces said they had reached the eastern outskirts of Mosul today and were preparing to make the first break into the city, which has been held by Isis (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 local time, said Lieutenant-General 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 - Isis' 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," he 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. Isis dispatched three car bombs, but they were all detonated by airstrikes, he said.

Lieutenant-General Abdelamir Yarallah, a senior army commander, said that the city's eastern bank was under direct fire.