Iraqi forces reclaim Mosul airport
MOSULU.S.-backed Iraqi security forces captured Mosul airport on Feb. 23, state television said, in a major gain in operations to drive the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from the western half of the city.
Elite Counter Terrorism forces advanced from the southwestern side and entered the Ghozlani army base along with the southwestern districts of Tal al-Rumman and al-Mamoun, according to Reuters.
Losing Mosul could spell the end of the Iraqi side of militants’ self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria, which ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared from the city after sweeping through vast areas of Iraq in 2014.
Iraqi forces hope to use the airport as a launchpad for their campaign to drive the militants from Iraq’s second largest city.
“We have entered the airport and engineering units are clearing the roads,” Hisham Abdul Kadhem, commander of the Rapid Response’s Scorpion Regiment, told AFP inside the airport.
Attack helicopters fired rockets at an old sugar factory that stands next to the perimeter wall, sending a cloud of ash floating across the area.
A Reuters correspondent saw more than 100 civilians fleeing towards Iraqi security forces from the district of al-Mamoun. Some of them were wounded.
“Daesh fled when counter terrorism Humvees reached al-Mamoun. We were afraid and we decided to escape towards the Humvees,” said Ahmed Atiya, one of the escaped civilians said, referring to ISIL by its Arabic name.
“We were afraid from the shelling,” he added.
Federal police and Rapid Response had battled their way into the airport as ISIL fighters fought back using suicide car bombs, a Reuters correspondent in the area south of Mosul airport said.
Police officers said the militants had also deployed bomb-carrying drones against the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Forces advancing from the southwestern side of the city.
“We are attacking Daesh from multiple fronts to distract them and prevent them regrouping,” said federal police captain Amir Abdul Kareem, whose units are fighting near Ghozlani military base. “It’s the best way to knock them down quickly.”