24 Feb 2017

Iraqi forces capture airport in fight for Mosul

6:57 am on 24 February 2017

US-backed Iraqi security forces captured Mosul airport in a major gain in government operations to drive Islamic State from the western half of the city.

Iraqi forces advance towards Mosul airport 23 February.

Iraqi forces advance towards Mosul airport. Photo: AFP

Federal police and an elite interior ministry unit known as Rapid Response had battled their way into the airport as Islamic State fighters fought back using suicide car bombs.

The operation took four hours. IS continued to fire mortars at the airport from further inside the city after losing the ground to the army.

Elite counter terrorism forces advanced from the southwestern side and entered an army base and southwestern districts of Tal al-Rumman and al-Mamoun. Police officers said the militants deployed bomb-carrying drones at the forces advancing from the south-west.

After ousting the militant group from eastern Mosul last month, Iraqi forces have sought to capture the airport and use it as a launchpad for an onslaught into the west of Iraq's second-largest city.

The airport and military complex, which includes barracks and training grounds and sprawls across an area close to the Baghdad-Mosul highway, was captured by Islamic State fighters when they overran Mosul in June 2014.

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.

The campaign involves a 100,000-strong force of Iraqi troops, Kurdish fighters and Shi'ite militias.

Forces have made rapid advances since the start of the year, aided by new tactics and improved coordination, military officials say.

- Reuters / BBC

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