(Reuters/IraqiNews.com) U.S.-backed Iraqi forces reached the vicinity of Mosul airport on Monday after dislodging Islamic State fighters from a nearby hill, the Iraqi military said in a statement.
The Iraqi forces launched the offensive on Sunday to capture the west side of Mosul that remains under the control of the militants. The militants were dislodged from the eastern part of the city last month.
The Iraqi forces aim to take the airport, just south of Mosul, and turn it into a close support base for the offensive into the city itself.
Shortly before reaching the airport’s premises, the forces invaded a major Iraqi military base in Ghizlani, which had been under Islamic State control since taking over Mosul in 2014.
Losing Mosul would be the most serious defeat the extremist group would have sustained in the years that followed its emergence in 2014 to proclaim a self-styled Islamic Caliphate. The group has lost thousands of personnel, including senior leaders, and has been struck with divisions since security operations to retake the city launched in mid October.
Iraqi commanders said Monday the total of villages recaptured by the government forces and allied militias since Sunday reached 17, and a total of 120 square kilometers of soil.