UPDATED: Iraqi forces take over Mosul Airport completely: TV

Feb 23, 2017, 11:49 am

Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi forces took full control over the strategic Mosul Airport in the west of the city, having forced Islamic State militants out of the facility, state TV reported Thursday.

Alsumaria News had earlier said that Rapid Response troops, part of the police force, made it to the airportís terminals.

Federal Police forces said an hour earlier they had taken over the runway of Mosul Airport, a few hours after launching an offensive to retake the Islamic State strategic bastion.

Iraqi army and police forces stormed Thursday the Mosul Airport and the nearby Ghizlani military camp, two major targets as the troops push to clear western Mosul from Islamic State militants.

The armyís elite Counter-Terrorism Forces and the Federal Police forces stormed the two facilities as part of operations launched Sunday to retake the western region of the city from the Islamic State. The past few days have seen the forces bombarding the vicinity of both facilities and retaking the nearby al-Bouseif hills, leaving dozens of deaths among IS militants who reportedly evacuated them after collapses in their defense lines.

Army and police commanders said also they had recaptured the villages of Yarmouk and Kharba near the airport.

ďOur forces started a major operation early this morning to storm the airport of Mosul and the Ghozlani base to dislodge Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists. We can confirm that the Mosul airport militarily has fallen and itís a matter of short time to fully control it,Ē Sabah al-Numan, spokesperson of the Counter-Terrorism Service, was quoted by Reuters as saying in statements to Iraqi state TV.

Iraqi forces, backed by a U.S.-led military coalition and paramilitary troops, launched an offensive in October to drive IS out of Mosul, the extremist groupís largest stronghold in Iraq which they conquered in 2014. The eastern area was recaptured late January, but has witnessed occasional deadly assaults by IS drones and gunmen since then.

Setting on the battle for western Mosul, Iraqi and coalition generals, who estimate the number of militants there by 3000, predicted a tougher battle, having to ensure the safety of at least 750.000 civilians trapped by IS in dense residential areas containing more than 100.000 buildings.