Nineveh (IraqiNews.com) Islamic State militants withdrew Tuesday from the Mosul Airport, a strategic group bastion, after intense fighting with government troops, Iraq’s police chief said.
News reports quoted Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat, commander of Federal Police service, as saying in a statement that tactics adopted by police forces forced the group to withdraw the facility.
Shortly earlier, the Islamic State’s chief security observant at Mosul Airport was killed along with two other companions in a drone strike as militants engaged in violent fights with security forces.
“Abu Abdullah” was killed with two other comrades at the airport’s main gate when a drone bombed the area, Alsumaria News reported, quoting a local source.
Iraqi government forces launched a major campaign Sunday to retake western Mosul from IS militants. Eastern Mosul was declared IS-free late January after three months of battles.
On Monday, the Joint Operations Command said government forces became only two kilometers away from the airport, a strategic Islamic State bastion in western Mosul.
Shortly before reaching the airport’s premises on Monday, the forces recaptured hills overlooking the airport, and invaded a major Iraqi military base in Ghizlani, a facility close to the airport which had been under Islamic State control since taking over Mosul in 2014.
The source told Alsumaria News that IS defenses around the airport had become under intense bombardment since the early morning, adding that vehicles affiliated with the extremist group were seen carrying dead bodies of militants out of the Ghizlani camp.
Recapturing Mosul would represent the strongest blow to Islamic State’s proclaimed “Islamic Caliphate”.