Iraqi Security Forces Near Mosul Airport

Iraqi Security Forces Near Mosul AirportIraqi Security Forces Near Mosul Airport

Iraqi security forces drove the fighters of the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group from the center of a town just south of the militants’ main stronghold of Mosul on Saturday and reached within a few kilometers of an airport on the edge of the city, a senior commander said.

Lieutenant-General Raed Shakir Jawdat said security forces were in control of the center of Hammam al-Alil, about 15 km south of Mosul, although he did not say whether the militants had been pushed out completely.

The advance on the southern front comes days after Iraqi special forces fought their way into the eastern side of Mosul, taking control of six neighborhoods, according to Iraqi officials and restoring a foothold in the city for the first time since the army retreated ignominiously two years ago, Reuters reported.

“Another unit advanced further north up the western bank of the Tigris River on Saturday,” Jawdat said.

“Our elite forces have reached an area just 4 km (2 1/2 miles) from Mosul airport,” he told Al-Hurra television channel.

Recapturing Mosul would crush the Iraqi half of a caliphate declared by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from the pulpit of a Mosul mosque in 2014. His extremist group also controls large parts of east Syria.

There were no reports of further gains in the east of the city on Saturday and officers said the military was clearing areas it took in recent days.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, speaking on a visit to the eastern front, said he brought “a message to the residents inside Mosul who are hostages in the hands of Daesh (another acronym used for IS): We will liberate you soon”.

Abadi said progress in the nearly three-week-old campaign and the advance into Mosul itself had been faster than expected. But in the face of fierce resistance, which has included suicide car bombings, sniper fire and roadside bombs, he suggested that progress may be intermittent.

“Our heroic forces will not retreat and will not be broken. Maybe in the face of terrorist acts, criminal acts, there will be some delay,” he said.

General Jawdat said his forces had destroyed 17 bomb-laden cars that had targeted them on their advance north.

So far, the army controls only a small part of Mosul, which was home to 2 million people before IS took over in 2014. More than 1 million remain in the city, by far the largest under IS control in either Iraq or Syria.


Add new comment

Read our comment policy before posting your viewpoints