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US-backed Iraqi security forces captured Mosul airport on Thursday, state television said, in a major gain in operations to drive Islamic State from the western half of the city.

More coalition forces have been "empowered" to have the ability to call in strikes in the Mosul operation, Col. Dorrian told a Pentagon press briefing on Wednesday.

Day Seven of the battle for western Mosul and the Iraqis - by their own account - are moving very slowly.

Fighting in the older western half of the Mosul is especially hard, however, as its narrower streets make it almost impossible to use armored vehicles and terrorists have been using small drones and suicide attacks to stop the Counter Terrorism Services (CTS) from advancing.

The battle for western Mosul is expected to enter its most risky phase as 650,000 civilians remain trapped in the area.

"Displacement has also continued from eastern parts of the city, alongside return movements back into some east Mosul neighborhoods, and to surrounding areas", he said.

Hundreds of civilians from the city escaped into the surrounding desert, but an estimated 700,000 remained trapped inside their homes.

The air strikes coincided with Iraq's ground forces pushing deeper into the western half of Mosul and reaching the first residential districts.

The battle plan was formalized during a three-week "operational pause" Iraqi forces took this month, in which they replenished broken equipment, brought in reinforcements, and consolidated their positions in the east.

A CNN crew near the airport reported an intense bombardment Friday on ISIS targets in the southern suburbs.

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Rasool said heavy clashes were underway inside the base. A group of American spotters was providing targeting information to the helicopters.

Officials can also refer to the militant group as "Daesh" - an Arabic acronym that is seen as derogatory by its members.

"We are there to train, advise and assist the Iraqi security forces".

"Daesh launched an attack with a suicide auto bomb and gunmen on the 2nd border guard regiment near Trebil", an officer in the border guard told AFP, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Dunford's comments come days after Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the commander of the US-led counter-ISIS coalition, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, suggested in Baghdad that there would be continued US-Iraqi military collaboration even after the terror group is ejected from Mosul. The Joint Military Operation Command added that there were many ISIS casualties during the attacks.

In the capital Baghdad, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Saturday in the first such visit in more than a decade between Sunni Muslim-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite-led Iraq.

AP points out that the PMF effort "is likely coordinated with [U.S. -backed Iraqi] government efforts to recapture the western part of Mosul from IS". ISIS has held the airport since 2014 and has largely destroyed its infrastructure.

"Congratulations to Iraqi forces for completing complex maneuver ops to secure #Mosul airport from #ISIS terrorists", he tweeted.

"They were really scared", he said. "The Iraqis are on the airfield".

Little was left standing inside the perimeter and what used to be the runway was littered with dirt and rubble. The operation which began three months ago to reclaim the whole of the city from IS control, is ongoing. Officials estimate there are still between 4,000 and 6,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul.


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