Iraqi forces have recaptured a key air base from the Islamic State militant group, a victory hailed by the government as a major step ahead of the long-awaited operation to retake the northern city of Mosul.
In a statement issued on his website on July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi described the air base in the northern town of Qayara as an "important base to liberate Mosul."
He called on Mosul residents "to get ready for the liberation of their areas."
Mosul, the country’s second largest city, fell to IS militants in the summer 2014, when the extremist group captured large swaths of northern and western Iraq.
In March, Iraqi forces launched an operation aimed at uprooting the militants from areas to the south and southeast of Mosul and gradually cutting off the city's supply lines.
Baghdad has not yet announced when the operation to retake Mosul will begin.