Iraqi forces have recaptured an eastern neighborhood in Mosul and raised the national flag on buildings as the army and allied fighters are tightening the noose around the Daesh-held city.
The commander of Nineveh Liberation Operation, Lieutenant General Abdul Amir Yarallah, announced the liberation of the al-Tahrir district on Thursday, the al-Sumaria news website reported.
Yarallah said that counterterrorism units had called on locals to stay indoors while the Iraqi troops are conducting mop-up operations in the liberated area.
In another development late on Wednesday, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Shaabi forces, wrested control of the Tal Afar airport in western Mosul.
The Iraqi soldiers are reported to be looking for booby traps inside the airport and advancing on the town of Tal Afar on Thursday. Iraqi forces are now moving up from the south, having the Mosul airport in their sights.
“Daesh has planted bombs in large parts of Tal Afar airport and operations are under way to clear it completely,” the PMU said in a statement.
Retaking Tal Afar, situated some 50 kilometers from Mosul, would bring Iraqis closer to surrounding Daesh in its last bastion in the Middle Eastern country.
“By capturing the Tel Afar airbase, the Iraqi forces have cut off a main Daesh supply route between Syria and Mosul,” Iraqi army officer, Hamid Saadi, said.
Secretary General of Iraq’s Badr Organization Hadi al-Ameri also noted that Tal Afar will be “the starting point for the liberation of all of the areas [along] the Syrian border.
The Iraqi army, volunteer Shia and Sunni fighters as well as Kurdish Peshmerga forces have been engaged in the Mosul liberation operation since October 17.
The city, which is divided by Tigris River, fell to Daesh in 2014, the year the terror outfit began its campaign of death and destruction in northern and western Iraq.
Abadi: Kurds already agreed to leave liberated areas
In another development on Thursday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reacted to remarks made by the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region about Kurdish Peshmerga forces not leaving areas retaken from Daesh.
Abadi’s office said in a statement on Thursday that a deal between Baghdad and Kurdistan specifically called for the Kurdish forces to pull back.
“The agreement includes a specific clause on the withdrawal of the Peshmerga from the liberated areas after the liberation of Mosul,” the statement read.
Under the accord, the Kurdish forces would return “to the previous places that they held prior to the launch of liberation operations,” it added.
The president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region said on Wednesday that Kurdish Peshmerga forces will not withdraw from the regions retaken from Daesh terrorists in Iraq.
Masoud Barzani claimed in an interview with the Kurdish Rudaw TV that the decision was based on an agreement with Washington and the central government in Baghdad.
“These areas were liberated by the blood of 11,500 martyrs,” he said, stressing, “It is not possible after all these sacrifices to return them to direct federal control.”