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

Separately, Iraqi special forces have entered the Ghazlani military base, which lies next to the airport on the southern edge of the city, according to the spokesman of the Joint Military Operation Command, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool.

The jihadists have been on the back foot in both Iraq and neighbouring Syria, the twin pivots of the "caliphate" they declared in July 2014.

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".

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the airstrikes in a statement, saying the air force hit the towns of Boukamal and Husseibah across the border. We'll provide our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard with the resources and training they need to accomplish their mission and come home safe, ' Pence said.

Air strikes in support of the Iraqi operation have increased in recent weeks as the push for the west side of the city drew near.

US forces have changed their rules of engagement in the fight against the Islamic State, allowing them to come closer to the front lines than ever before.

The east side of Mosul was declared liberated by Iraqi forces in late January after a three-month long operation, when Iraqi units incurred high casualty rates due to the Isis deployment of large numbers of suicide auto bombs. Retaking the city would deprive ISIS of its last urban stronghold in Iraq, and would be a major victory for Abadi's embattled government.

The Iraqi flag was once again flying near the airport's airfield, even as Isis mortars continued to barrage the advancing forces.

Maj. Gen. Thamer Mohammed, commander of the rapid response unit of the Iraqi federal police, said 65 IS fighters were killed in the battle at the airport.

IS jihadists offered limited resistance at the airport and the nearby Ghazlani base, open and uninhabited areas that are hard for them to defend in the face of the huge firepower deployed by Baghdad and its allies.

After forcing ISIS from eastern Mosul in January, coalition forces started their campaign to free the rest of the city on Sunday.

Similarly intense counterattacks followed pushes on the other fronts.

They have also taken control of an ISIS weapons storage warehouse, former ISIS headquarters and the barracks at al-Ghazlani, Brig.

On Friday, they attacked a border guard position near the Trebil crossing with Jordan, which lies about 500 kilometres (310 miles) west of the capital Baghdad. Police officers said the militants deployed bomb-carrying drones at the forces advancing from the south-west.

The strikes in Bukamal inside Syria - and Hussaiba on the Iraqi side of the border - were carried out by US -supplied F-16 fighter jets in response to bombing attacks in the capital Baghdad, said Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

"The strikes targeted Islamic State's headquarters used for making auto bombs in Albu Kamal. after Iraqi intelligence received tips from their sources inside Syria", a senior security official told Reuters. On Thursday, U.S. forces were seen in the front lines of the attack.

  • Leroy Wright