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Middle East The Latest: Iraqi police enter Mosul airport, take runway

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Iraqi Federal police deploy after regaining control of the town of Abu Saif, west of Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. The battle for Mosul, backed by the U.S.-led coalition, has already driven the militants from the eastern half of the city, which is divided roughly in half by the Tigris River. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

The Latest on the Iraqi government forces' battle to take the western half of Mosul from the Islamic State group (all times local):

11:30 a.m.

Iraqi police officials say the country's militarized federal police forces have entered Mosul International Airport, taking over the runway amid fierce clashes with the Islamic State group.

Thursday's advance is part of a major assault that started five days ago to drive IS militants from the western half of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

Two police officers say the airport buildings are now under fire from the Iraqi police forces. They would not provide more details but said troops from the U.S.-led coalition are with the advancing forces, though they didn't specify the nationalities of the foreign forces.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to reporters.

—Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad.

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9:30 a.m.

Iraq's special forces say they have begun an assault against the Islamic State group on a sprawling military base south of Mosul that's adjacent to the city's airport.

Two Iraqi special forces officers say their troops have reached the edge of the Ghazlani base on the city's southern rim on Thursday morning and that clashes there are underway.

A federal police officer says his forces are also pushing toward the Mosul airport. All officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to reporters.

The advances come days after Iraqi forces officially launched the operation to push IS out of Mosul's western half.

The operation to retake Iraq's second largest city was officially launched in October and in January its eastern half was declared "fully liberated."

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