In a statement issued on his web site, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the air base in the town of Qayara as an "important base to liberate Mosul" calling on the city's residents "to get ready for the liberation of their areas."
    
Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city located about 360 kilometers northwest of Baghdad, fell to IS militants during their summer 2014 onslaught that captured large swaths of northern and western Iraq.

In late March, the government forces launched an operation aimed at dislodging IS militants from areas to the south and southeast of Mosul and gradually cutting off the city's supply lines.
    
But retaking Mosul itself is not likely to come anytime soon. It will be an enormous undertaking for Iraqi troops, even though they are backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition and have been joined by pro-government fighters mostly Shiite militias.

The IS group was pushed out of Fallujah last month after holding the city just west of Baghdad for more than two years. Despite a string of recent territorial defeats, the militants still hold large pockets of territory in northern and western Iraq.

 

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