Iraqi forces storm Mosul airport in bid to retake city

Violet Powell
February 26, 2017

Iraqi forces on Friday entered neighbourhoods in west Mosul for the first time since beginning their push to recapture the city from ISIL four months ago.

The regional command said elite forces from the Counter-Terrorism Service were simultaneously attacking the neighbouring Ghazlani military base, where some of them were stationed before IS seized Mosul in June 2014.

Both the Ghazlani military base and the airport will be key to the next steps in the daunting battle and will serve as a base of operations as Iraqi forces launch subsequent pushes into western Mosul, which is divided by the Tigris River into two halves.

The push to take the airport, which has been led by Iraqi Federal Police, is a promising start to what is expected to be a hard and bloody fight to completely evict the Islamic State from the city.

The Pentagon will present to President Donald Trump a "full range of options" to fight Islamic State (ISIS) that could include USA boots on the ground in Syria.

The battle for western Mosul, the extremist group's last major urban bastion in Iraq, is expected to be most daunting yet.

After taking the eastern half of the city, Iraqi forces halted operations for three weeks in order to form a strategy that would retake the city's western half.

Two policemen sit atop of their armoured vehicle as Iraqi Federal police deploy after regaining control of the town of Abu Saif, west of Mosul, Iraq.

Those options would also target Al Qaida, he said.

The troops' advance toward Mosul came after the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on February 19 the start of an offensive to drive the extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of Tigris River which bisects the city.

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The Iraqi Kurdish news channel reported Saturday morning that one of its war correspondents had been killed covering the fighting in Mosul.

Loss of Mosul could spell the end of the Iraqi side of IS's self-styled caliphate, which it declared from the city after sweeping through vast areas of Iraq and Syria.

One of the key strategies that the US military has changed in recent weeks is the protocol for calling in airstrikes.

Al-Bab was considered a strategic stronghold for ISIS, connecting militants to nearby Aleppo and the Turkish border all the way to the town of Raqqa and Deir e-Zour in Syria's east.

"We're not able to get into western Mosul, but we can only predict that the situation there remains dire".

USA forces have played a key role in the advance of Baghdad's troops, launching airstrikes and providing advisers on the ground.

Militants often use hospitals, schools, and religious buildings in the hopes that coalition forces would be reluctant to bomb them.

Abadi urged his forces to exercise the utmost caution when retaking west Mosul, where the United Nations believes around 750,000 civilians are trapped with dwindling food and medical supplies.

"Around 450 members of the USA -led coalition are advising the Iraqi troops".

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