Iraqi Forces Reportedly Enter Western Mosul

In addition to storming the airport, the army attacked the nearby camp of al-Ghazlani and Tel al-Raman and al-Maamun neighbourhoods.

Iraqi special forces on Thursday joined the government offensive to rout Islamic State militants from the western half of Mosul, pushing up to a sprawling, IS-held military base on the city's southern edge as police forces advanced toward the adjacent worldwide airport, officials said.

Loss of Mosul could spell the end of the Iraqi side of IS's self-styled caliphate, which it declared from the city after sweeping through vast areas of Iraq and Syria.

Social media accounts affiliated with the rebels uploaded videos and images on Wednesday said to have been taken after ISIS fighters left the city early on Thursday.

The airport's runway had already been destroyed by IS, but BBC Middle East Correspondent Quentin Somerville, who is embedded with Iraqi federal police units, says it still has value. The dense urban environment will likely force Iraqi soldiers to leave the relative safety of their armored vehicles. On the east side of the city, Iraqi forces have made an effort to protect civilian lives and many buildings remain intact, despite rubble and rubbish littering the streets. However, some homes and buildings were destroyed by Isis auto bombs, snipers, rockets, or were caught between the battle lines and are peppered with bullet holes.

An Iraqi military spokesman says Iraqi special forces have entered a sprawling military base next to Mosul's airport on the southern edge of the city.

Since then, the military says they have retaken almost 50 square miles south of the city.

"Congratulations to Iraqi forces for completing complex maneuver ops to secure Mosul airport from ISIS [Islamic State] terrorists". An estimated 2,000 jihadists are believed to be still fighting to keep Mosul under ISIS's control. According to CNN, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack. The volley of firing stopped and the drone fell to the earth.

Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve revealed the information at a Pentagon news conference saying: "Yes, they have been under fire at different times".

"This is where the real fighting starts", a colonel leading the operation told the BBC of the assault on the city's west. "We were afraid and we chose to escape towards the Humvees".

There are now around 500 U.S. Special Operations forces in Syria, in what Dunford called "about as complex an environment as you can be", working with Syrian Kurdish and Arab forces to close in on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa.

Sultan Mourad, head of a Turkish-backed rebel group told AFP that al-Bab was "completely liberated, and we are now clearing mines from residential neighborhoods".

In an alleged bid to stop the advance of Kurdish forces and push Daesh from Turkey's border with Syria, Ankara has been leading a major military intervention in Syria since August 2016.

"This is something that maintains a very high level of precision, but it also increases the amount of responsiveness for the teams on the ground", he said. Some 730 square miles in northern Syria has now been cleared of militant groups, it claimed.

  • Leroy Wright