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Iraqi forces consolidate their position in preparation for Mosul airport offensive

By Rudaw 21/2/2017
VIDEO: the fight for Albu Saif village, south of Mosul, on Monday.
MOSUL, Iraq– Clashes are ongoing between advancing Iraqi forces and ISIS militants around the key village of Albu Saif, where ISIS militants are still in control of a cement factory just outside the village.
Iraqi forces declared the village liberated on Monday, Rudaw’s correspondents embedded with the Iraqi army reported. Ablu Saif is located within 2 kilometres of the strategic Mosul airport, south of Mosul.
Rudaw’s cameras have captured what looks like armed commercial drones of ISIS militants flying in the skies over the area, amidst sounds of heavy gunshots on Tuesday.
ISIS used a combination of sniper fire and suicide bombers to try and stop the advance of the Iraqi Federal Police and its elite Quick Response Units. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) will next retake the ISIS-held village of Yarmuk, located between Albu Saif and the airport.
With the liberation of Albu Saif, the Iraqi forces were able to take control of high ground overlooking the airport and the adjacent Ghazlani military camp, the Iraqi army announced earlier.
The ISF is heavily shelling the airport and the village of Yarmuk where white flags been put on the roofs of some of the houses, suggesting that there are civilians there. ISF commanders fear it may be another tactic employed by ISIS to cover themselves from the barrage of artillery. 
Iraq’s Joint Command stated on Monday night that the first stage of the new offensive, which began on Sunday, was concluded, indicating that the next stage may begin. This would see the elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) and the Quick Response Units, two well-trained forces trained in urban warfare, spearhead an eventual offensive into western Mosul proper. 
The CTS, which led the campaign in east Mosul, have not taken part in the new offensive yet. 
Many ISIS dead bodies were left behind near Albu Saif on Monday, scattered on the ground, and ISIS militants could be seen fleeing on motorcycles.
Coalition warplanes provided air support in support of the federal police, shelling ISIS positions and movement in the village.

Also on Monday, Hashd al-Shaabi took control of the road that connects west Mosul with Tal Afar, according to a statement from the group. The route was described by the Abbas division’s commander, Maitham al-Zubayde, as “the last supply line between western Mosul and Tal Afar.”



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