Fight For Mosul Moves Westward And Centers On City's Airport

Darren Sullivan
February 24, 2017

Iraqi forces backed by the US -led global coalition fought their way Thursday into a sprawling military base outside of Mosul and onto the grounds of the city's airport, taking control of the runway amid fierce exchanges of fire with Islamic State group militants.

The United States now has about 500 Special Operations Forces troops on Syrian soil, but if there is an increase in the war presence, the additional troops will be conventional land combat units, Army and Marine Corps.

Federal police and an elite interior ministry unit known as Rapid Response had battled their way into the airport as Islamic State fighters fought back using suicide auto bombs.

Another special forces officer said IS targeted the advancing troops with a suicide vehicle bomb and dozens of bombs dropped from a drone.

"The Rapid Response Forces and federal police are fully in control of the airport of Mosul", state television said in a flash on its screen.

The move by the umbrella group of mostly Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces is likely coordinated with government efforts to recapture the western part of Mosul from IS.

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In addition to storming the airport, the army attacked the nearby camp of al-Ghazlani and Tel al-Raman and al-Maamun neighbourhoods. The officer, who also condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to brief the media, said his troops sustained at least a dozen casualties, but many were light injuries.

The UN has voiced concern about the welfare of civilians trapped in the city. "We don't have all of the funding we need and many partners are facing major capacity constraints", she said.

Late in January, Abadi declared the liberation of the eastern side of Mosul, or the left bank of Tigris, after more than 100 days of fighting against IS militants.

On Thursday, armoured units launched their attack on the airport after being backed by airstrikes from the US-led coalition.

Reports out of the Pentagon that this was likely to be the decision of their deliberation on war recommendations have repeatedly suggested an "accelerated" campaign in Syria with a large deployment of U.S. combat troops would at least be among the options President Trump faces. The northern Syrian town in Aleppo province is one of the militants' last urban strongholds in Syria west of Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital.