- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2017

BAGHDAD (AP) - The Latest on the Iraqi forces’ battle to take the western half of Mosul from the Islamic State militants (all times local):

3:35 p.m.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi says the Iraqi air force has carried out its first airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria.

A statement from al-Abadi says the attacks targeted the towns of Boukamal and Husseibah and came in response to bombings in Baghdad that have been claimed by IS and linked to the militants’ operations in Syria.

An Iraqi air force commander says the airstrikes were carried out with F-16 warplanes at dawn on Friday and “were successful.”

The commander says they were conducted on the orders of the prime minister. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The airstrikes are first ones by Iraq against IS in Syria that have been publicly acknowledged. They come as Iraq’s military is fighting IS in western part of the city of Mosul.

The U.S.-led coalition and Russia also carry out airstrikes against IS in Syria.

-Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad


12:05 p.m.

Iraqi officials say their forces have entered the first neighborhood of the western half of Mosul and have gained full control of the city’s airport after fierce clashes with Islamic State militants.

Two special forces officials and a federal police official told The Associated Press about the developments in the Mosul advances on Friday. The gains come as Iraqi forces continue to push into the western part of this city, which is still in the hands of the Islamic State group.

All three officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake western Mosul on Sunday, weeks after the city’s east was declared “fully liberated” from the militants in January.


10:15 a.m.

Two Iraqi officials say that after a day of fierce fighting, Iraqi forces have secured half of Mosul’s airport and most of a sprawling military base next to it on the city’s southwestern edge.

A federal police officer and an official overseeing the operation said on Friday that troops also secured key infrastructure as they advance to rout the Islamic State group from western Mosul.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Iraq’s federal police, special forces and the army are taking part in the battle, which started Sunday.

Iraqi authorities declared Mosul’s eastern half “fully liberated” in January and afterward largely paused operations to prepare for the fight for the city’s west.

The United Nations estimated that about 750,000 civilians are trapped in western Mosul.

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