Iraqi forces worked to clear bombs and flush out any remaining jihadists in retaken areas of west Mosul Wednesday to set the stage for an offensive against the Old City, AFP reported.
Supported by U.S-led air strikes, the forces have made steady progress in their battle to seize Iraq's second city from the Daesh group, announcing the recapture of three more areas on Wednesday, the report said.
Daesh overran large areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014, with its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declaring a cross-border "caliphate" in his last public appearance at a Mosul mosque in July that year.
A U.S official Wednesday said Baghdadi was no longer in Mosul, and that the hunt for the enigmatic figure is being led by groups outside the U.S-led anti-Daesh coalition, including U.S special operations forces.
Iraqi forces launched the massive operation to retake Mosul on October 17, first recapturing its eastern side before setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated west.
The jihadists are under mounting pressure from twin U.S-backed ground offensives targeting Mosul and their other main stronghold, Raqa in Syria.
They have fought back with suicide car bombs, roadside bombs, snipers and weaponised drones.
Iraqi forces have recaptured a series of neighbourhoods in Mosul as well as the provincial government headquarters and the museum where Daesh militants infamously filmed themselves destroying priceless artefacts.