Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Iraq on Monday said security forces freed the key village of Albu Saif, near Mosul International Airport, from the Islamic State.
Iraqi security forces are advancing south of Mosul after the full-scale military offensive to capture west Mosul began Sunday. Iraqi forces are attempting to seize territory south of Mosul, specifically three villages, to gain the higher ground where they will see west Mosul's southern edge and the airport.
The bodies of Islamic State militants have been left behind and militants have fled on motorcycles, Rudaw journalist Ranja Jamal reported. Iraqi forces will use Albu Saif to launch another offensive to capture Yarmouk, which is located between the Mosul airport and Albu Saif.
The U.S.-led international coalition is conducting airstrikes on Islamic State targets in support of Iraqi security forces. The coalition carried out heavy airstrikes ahead of the offensive.
The United Nations estimates from 650,000 to 750,000 civilians are currently in Mosul amid a humanitarian crisis in which shortages of food, water and fuel are widespread.
Lise Grande, the United Nation's Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, has urged Iraqi forces to "do absolutely everything they can to ensure that civilians survive the battle, and that they live," adding that "absolutely nothing is more important going into the campaign to retake western Mosul."
Iraq's Federal Police is leading the offensive to move up from the south of Mosul. Once Iraqi forces reach Mosul from the south, Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces will take over the dangerous street-by-street battle for Mosul.