US-backed Iraqi troops have retaken Mosul’s airport from Islamic State and stormed a military base in a bid to enter the militant-held western part of the densely-populated city, where up 750,000 civilians are now trapped.
"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 on Thursday afternoon, Reuters reported.
Attacking from the south, Iraqi forces reached the Ghazlani base near the airport in southwestern Mosul on Thursday morning, two special forces officers told AP, adding that there was fierce fighting going on between the Iraqi military and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants near the besieged facility.
Later in the day, Iraqi police officials said the troops had captured the airport’s runway and were attempting to enter nearby buildings. The runway had already been destroyed by IS, but seizing the compound would open the routes leading to western Mosul.
Iraqi police officers taking part in the offensive told Reuters that the militants were trying to stem the troops’ advance with explosive-laden drones.
Iraqi troops began a major ground offensive to recapture the western part of Mosul earlier this week, following the liberation of the eastern part of the city in January.