Iraq strikes ISIL in Syria; forces enter western Mosul
Iraq’s air force struck Islamic State targets inside Syria for the first time on Friday as Iraqi troops on the ground pushed into western Mosul, the last major urban stronghold held by the Sunni militant group in Iraq.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the airstrikes in a statement, saying the air force hit the border towns of Boukamal and Husseibah, strikes that came in response to recent bombings in Baghdad claimed by ISIL and linked to the militants’ operations in Syria.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces pushed into the first neighbourhood of western Mosul and took full control of Mosul’s international airport and a sprawling military base on the southwestern edge of the city, according to Iraqi officials.
Iraqi federal police fired volleys of mortars into Mosul from the edge of the airport, which appeared almost completely destroyed: runways had been dug up, control towers flattened and concrete barriers overturned.
The territorial gains marked the first key moves in the battle, now in its sixth day, to rout ISIL militants from the western half of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
The push into the Mamun neighbourhood was followed by intense clashes with ISIL militants, according to an Iraqi special forces officer on the ground, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Similarly intense counterattacks followed pushes on the other fronts. Federal police Maj. Gen. Haider alMaturi said his forces pushed through concrete roadblocks and earthen berms set up by the Islamic State group to impede their progress, and succeeded in capturing around 30 per cent of the Aviation District, the first district entering Mosul’s western perimeter from the south.