Battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria continued to splinter Islamic State’s hold on both countries on Thursday, with Mosul airport seized by advancing Iraqi forces and the town of al-Bab finally falling to Syrian rebels.

Backed heavily by Turkey, rebels said they had recaptured nearly all of al-Bab, which had remained Isis’s westernmost stronghold throughout five months of intensive fighting and a key target of the war against the terror group.

The seizure of al-Bab came as the airfield on the western outskirts of Iraq’s second city fell to Iraqi troops after a brief, but intense, battle. Its capture allows advancing government forces to consolidate a stronghold close to Mosul before launching an all-out push to retake it — a move that would strip Isis of its last urban stronghold in Iraq.

By nightfall, troops were moving into the sprawling airfield to launch operations into the fortified western suburbs, where several thousand of Isis’s most seasoned fighters have prepared for a last stand. If the west of the city falls, the extremists’ presence in Iraq will be confined to a border area in the country’s north-west, which spills towards its last remaining centre of gravity, the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Backed by US jets and drones, national police forces were first into the Mosul airfield and had secured most of the runway by noon local time. Militants had laid mines throughout the disused complex and were clashing heavily with advancing forces, before capitulating late in the afternoon.

“I can confirm that the airport is fully liberated,” said Brigadier General Abbas al-Juburi, from the elite Iraqi unit that led the assault, on Friday morning.

The seizure of the base gives the forces and their US backers control of two large airfields near Mosul, the other one being the Qayyarah military base, to the south of the city.-

Source: National News Agency

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Battlefield defeats in Iraq and Syria continued to splinter Islamic State's hold on both countries on Thursday, with Mosul airport seized by advancing Iraqi forces and the town of al-Bab finally falling to Syrian rebels. Backed heavily by Turkey, rebels said they had recaptured nearly all of al-Bab, which...