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Iraqi government forces on Saturday recaptured an air base in northern Iraq from the Islamic State group, a victory hailed by the prime minister as a key step ahead of the long-awaited operation to push the militants from the northern city of Mosul.

In a statement issued on his web site, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the air base in the town of Qayara as an “important base to liberate Mosul” calling on the city’s residents “to get ready for the liberation of their areas.”

Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city located about 360 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, fell to IS militants during their summer 2014 onslaught that captured large swaths of northern and western Iraq.

Iraqi forces open second front south of Islamic State-held Mosul
  • Iraqi military launches offensive to recapture IS-held Mosul
  • Iraqi forces to retake Mosul from Islamic State after Ramadi secured: Iraq PM
  • Fighting the Islamic State: Iraq launches a military operation to regain control of Tikrit
  • After Iraqi battles, residents choose displacement
  • Obama hails recapturing of Iraq’s Mosul Dam by Kurdish forces
  • Iraqi forces open second front south of Islamic State-held Mosul
  • Iraqi military launches offensive to recapture IS-held Mosul
  • Iraqi forces to retake Mosul from Islamic State after Ramadi secured: Iraq PM
  • Fighting the Islamic State: Iraq launches a military operation to regain control of Tikrit
  • After Iraqi battles, residents choose displacement
  • Obama hails recapturing of Iraq’s Mosul Dam by Kurdish forces
  • Iraqi forces open second front south of Islamic State-held Mosul
  • Iraqi military launches offensive to recapture IS-held Mosul
  • Iraqi forces to retake Mosul from Islamic State after Ramadi secured: Iraq PM
  • Fighting the Islamic State: Iraq launches a military operation to regain control of Tikrit
  • After Iraqi battles, residents choose displacement
  • Obama hails recapturing of Iraq’s Mosul Dam by Kurdish forces

In late March, the government forces launched an operation aimed at dislodging IS militants from areas to the south and southeast of Mosul and gradually cutting off the city’s supply lines.

But retaking Mosul itself is not likely to come anytime soon. It will be an enormous undertaking for Iraqi troops, even though they are backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition and have been joined by pro-government fighters mostly Shiite militias.

The IS group was pushed out of Fallujah last month after holding the city just west of Baghdad for more than two years.

Despite a string of recent territorial defeats, the militants still hold large pockets of territory in northern and western Iraq.

[source;indianexpress]