UPDATED: Iraqi forces recapture 2 villages en route to Mosul airport

Federal Police forces. File photo.

Nineveh ( Iraqi army and police forces recaptured on Thursday two villages stretching parallel to the Mosul Airport as government forces commenced an attack hours earlier to retake the facility from Islamic State militants.

Federal Police chief, Shaker Jawdat, said in a statement that Rapid Response forces took over al-Yarmouk village near the airport as part of “vast areas” recaptured by the troops on their way to the vital facility.

Brig. Gen. Saher al-Khalidi, from the 9th armored division, was quoted by Shafaq news website as saying that the forces took over al-Kherba village, which lies adjacent to the airport.

“Our 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 it’s a matter of short time to fully control it,” Sabah al-Numan, spokesperson of the Counter-Terrorism Service, was quoted by Reuters as saying in statements to Iraqi state TV.

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.

Alsumaria News reported in a breaking news that the army’s 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.

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 group’s 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.

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