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Iraqi forces backed by British troops storm Mosul airport in Isis battle

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BREAKING: Coalition forces storm Mosul airport in bid to destroy ISIS

Iraqi security forces closing in on the Isis-held western half of Mosul have launched a major offensive on the city's airport and fought their way into a nearby military base.

The air raids have set the conditions for Iraqi forces to retake the Mosul airport and march further inside the city, the colonel said, according to a Pentagon news release.

United States coalition advisers were seen on the front lines Thursday as Iraqi forces advanced on the airport.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, a top USA commander in Iraq, said Monday the Iraqi forces are an "increasingly capable, formidable and professional force".

AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
Troops advance towards Ghazlani base near Mosul airport

A federal police officer says his forces are also pushing toward the Mosul airport.

After fighting their way with helicopter gunships, machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades to Albu Saif on Monday, Iraqi forces were building up their positions in the hilltop village that overlooks the airport and built-up western Mosul beyond, a Reuters correspondent reported from the area. In the three days since the start of the offensive, they have already taken back 48 square miles and are now overlooking the city's airport.

Many of those civilians in western Mosul were forced out of the eastern part of the city during heavy fighting there last month.

Eastern Mosul was retaken last month, but recapturing the west could prove more hard.

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"Our forces are beginning the liberation of the citizens from the terror of Daesh", Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a short televised speech, using an Arabic acronym for the ISIS group.

The estimate which the US-led coalition supporting Iraqi forces gave before the October 17 launch of a huge operation on Mosul was that the city was defended by 5,000 to 7,000 jihadists.

We're also commonly seeing reports of ISIS arresting and executing their fighters who try to abandon the fight or are suspected of collaborating with forces trying to liberate areas that ISIS controls. "They have returned fire at different times in and around Mosul".

They say that western Mosul, although slightly smaller than the east, is more densely populated and includes districts that are seen as pro-IS.

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Dorrian also said that a key part in the "extraordinarily hard fight" will be to eliminate Isis leaders.

The advances are part of a US -backed government offensive to drive the Islamic State group from western Mosul.

"West Mosul had the potential certainly of being more hard, with house-to-house fighting on a larger and more bloody scale", said Patrick Skinner, from the Soufan Group intelligence consultancy.

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