Iraqi forces have today gained control of most of Mosul’s airport on the city’s southwestern edge and taken over a large military base nearby according to Iraqi officials. This marks an important turning point in attempting to defeat Islamic State militants from western Mosul.
According to a leading Iraqi military source after a day of fierce fighting, most of the airport was taken over by Iraqi forces.
A federal police officer said fighting was underway in northern parts of the airport, with some Islamic State militants there. Meanwhile, an Iraqi special forces official said his troops have retaken most of a big military base near the airport. Military sources didn’t wish to be identified.
The wide ranging assault on the base and airport started early yesterday, closely assisted by U.S.-led coalition troops and airstrikes, in attempting to take western Mosul. That attempt began six days ago.
Iraq’s special forces joined federal police and rapid response units in the push while a Shia militia secured main roads in west Mosul, largely cutting it from Islamic State territory in Syria.
Iraqi authorities declared Mosul’s eastern half “fully liberated” in January and afterward largely paused operations to prepare for the fight for the city’s west
The United Nations estimates over 750,000 civilians are trapped in western Mosul. The initial numbers of displaced from west Mosul are low, but Iraqi forces are yet to gain control of Mosul’s dense urban areas.
Western Mosul is the last major urban area in Iraq under Islamic State control. With dense and older neighborhoods and narrow streets it may be tough capturing it from the terror group.