Forces push deeper into Mosul

Iraqi forces backed by the U.S. led global coalition fought their way today into a sprawling military base outside of Mosul and onto the grounds of the city's airport, taking control of the runway amid fierce exchanges of fire with Islamic State group militants.

Iraqi forces closely supported by the USA -led global coalition pushed into the first neighbourhood of western Mosul and took full control of the city's worldwide airport and a sprawling military base on the southwestern edge of the city, according to Iraqi officials.

The fighters belonging to ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, attacked government forces with a suicide auto bombing in Tal al-Rayyan and that three other vehicle bombs were found there, according to Aridhi.

"We are determined to chase terrorism that tries to kill our sons and citizens wherever it is found", al-Abadi said in a statement, saying that IS forces in the region were "responsible" for last week's bombings in Baghdad that killed over 50 people.

Separately, federal police and an elite Interior Ministry unit known as Rapid Response advanced into the Hawi al-Josaq and al-Danadan districts after breaching a berm and a trench set up by Islamic State north of the airport, a spokesman said.

The 4th Bridge is the most southern of five main bridges the span the river in Mosul.

However, the western side of Mosul, with its narrow street and a population of between 750,000 and 800,000, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces.

They met fierce resistance from jihadists defending their last major stronghold in Iraq and commanders have warned that the west bank, where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his caliphate, would be even tougher. Not only have they been without aid and struggling to afford the limited food available but will also have survived the trauma of living under the brutal rule of ISIS.

After a bloodier-than-expected battle, Iraqi troops liberated eastern Mosul in January.

The 60-nation coalition dominated by the United States has carried out more than 10,000 strikes on IS targets since 2014, and recently stepped up its involvement to help Baghdad retake Mosul.

Mohammed Al Mawsily, manager of a radio station that broadcasts exclusively to Mosul from Irbil, told CNN that listeners who'd called in from the embattled city since the offensive began had expressed some cautious optimism.

A Reuters reporter saw several trucks teeming with people, lifting columns of sand and dust as they drove away from the city.

On Saturday, Iraqi armored units took control of the electric power station in the nearby village of al-Yarmouk, according to a statement from Yarallah, the Iraqi commander in Nineveh.

Syrian government forces have been pushing east from Aleppo after regaining full control of the second city in December.

Al Jazeera's Osama Bin Javid, reporting from Erbil, said that ISIL targeted the troops from multiple fronts, including soldiers who were stationed at Mosul airport, one of the Iraqi army's most significant achievements in its first phase of the offensive.

He said some fighters had been wounded, however, including by the weaponised drones ISIS has increasingly resorted to in recent weeks.

  • Leroy Wright