Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Iraqi security forces entered the first district within west Mosul proper in its offensive against the Islamic State after taking control of the strategic al-Ghazlani military base.
Iraqi Federal Police Lt. Gen Shaker Jawdat said police on Friday freed a sports facility in the al-Tayyaran district -- Iraq's first capture within west Mosul's city limits.
Iraqi Col. Mohamad Bayzani, a member of the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State, said IS militants died in the battle for the al-Ghazlani military base, where Iraqi flags now fly above buildings.
The military base is near the Mosul International Airport, which Iraqi forces captured Thursday.
U.S. Air Force Col. John L. Dorrian, U.S. spokesman for the anti-IS coalition, said the Iraqi effort aided by coalition support was "very successful" in capturing the airport.
"This is an overlook position, a dominant position that provided a tremendous advantage to Iraqi security forces," Dorrian said. "And they were able to move very successfully into the city with support from coalition airstrikes and coalition intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, so that the enemy targets could be identified so the Iraqi security forces could destroy those forces."
The The Iraqi Counter-Terror Service is expected to take over the more dangerous, street-by-street battle for Mosul after the collection of Iraqi forces seize a firm grip of west Mosul proper.
The United Nations estimates from 650,000 to 750,000 civilians are in Mosul amid a humanitarian crisis in which shortages of food, water and fuel are widespread.