The Iraqi army has recaptured an airbase from the militant "Islamic State" group near Mosul. The country's prime minister has said the airbase can serve as a launch pad for reclaiming the jihadi-controlled city.
An airbase around 60 kilometers (35 miles) south of Mosul was reclaimed from "Islamic State" (IS) fighters by Iraqi forces, the country's prime minister announced on Saturday.
The Qayyarah airbase would be "an important base to liberate Mosul," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a statement.
The operation involved two army divisions and members of Iraq's counterterrorism forces alongside air support from a US-led international coalition, Iraq's Joint Operations Command said.
Associated Press footage of the fighting showed government troops firing rockets at IS positions with black smoke billowing in the distance. No further details were immediately available on the scale of the fighting.
Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, was captured by IS militants in the summer of 2014. In late March, Iraqi forces launched an operation to remove IS fighters from the south of Mosul and gradually cut off the city's supply lines.
At the end of last month, Iraqi troops recaptured Fallujah, a city 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Baghdad, after IS had held it for over two years. IS still controls large areas of territory in northern and western Iraq.
In response to recent setbacks on the battlefield, the Sunni extremist group has been targeting civilians - particularly Shiites.
On Thursday, IS claimed responsibility for an attack on a Shiite shrine north of the Iraqi capital that killed 30 people. The attack followed a devastating bombing last Sunday at a central Baghdad shopping area, which killed at least 292 people.
rs/sms (AP, AFP)