Iraqi Federal police deploy after regaining control of the town of Abu Saif, west of Mosul, Iraq, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
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Iraqi forces readied on Wednesday for an assault on Mosul airport after blitzing extremist positions in a renewed offensive to retake ISIS' emblematic stronghold.Senior US officials this week estimated there were only 2,000 ISIS fighters defending west Mosul, suggesting the extremist group had suffered heavy losses in the first four months of the operation.The fate of an estimated 750,000 civilians trapped in west Mosul was a major source of concern as Iraqi forces prepared for what many have predicted could be one of the bloodiest battles yet in the war on ISIS.Around half a million civilians stayed on in east Mosul, making the screening process that would have been necessary to prevent ISIS members blending in with the rest of the population almost impossible.The loss of Mosul for ISIS would effectively spell the end of its days as a land-holding force in Iraq, with only a few scattered and shrinking pockets of territory left.
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