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Displaced people flee during a battle with Islamic State militants, in al-Zuhoor neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq, January 8, 2017. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

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MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi special forces, backed by U.S.-led air raids, clashed with Islamic State militants near a historic site in Mosul on Sunday, an officer in Iraq's counter-terrorism service said, as they tried to drive the jihadists out of more districts in the city.

The elite counter-terrorism service (CTS) has spearheaded advances into eastern Mosul in the nearly 12-week U.S.-backed offensive to recapture the city, which is Islamic State's last major stronghold in Iraq.

"This morning CTS troops advanced in two directions towards the Baladiyat and Sukkar districts," Lt.General Abdelwahab al-Saadi said.

"During the advance, Daesh (Islamic State) tried to confront us from the historic hill," he said, apparently referring to a hill located near the ruins of the ancient Assyrian city of Nineveh, east of the Tigris river and inside Mosul.

Saadi said Iraqi forces and warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition "dealt with" IS fighters who had gone up the hill to use it as a firing position. Dozens of the militants were killed, he added.

Iraqi forces, including the CTS and army units, have advanced further into Mosul in recent days, helped by new tactics and better coordination to gain fresh momentum after getting bogged down inside the city towards the end of the year.

(Reporting by Stephen Kalin,; Writing by John Davison,; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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