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Iraq Forces Retake Mosul Train Station

(AFP) -- Iraqi forces said Tuesday that they recaptured Mosul's train station, which has not been operational since jihadists siezed the city but was once one of the country's main rail hubs.

Iraqi forces launched a major push to retake west Mosul from the Islamic State group last month, advancing in to the area from the south and retaking a series of neighbourhoods and sites including the provincial government headquarters and the famed Mosul museum.

Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat, the commander of the federal police, said in a statement that his forces have added the train station as well as a nearby bus station to that list, both of which are located southwest of Mosul's Old City.

The station was the "main corridor from the north to the south and carries goods from Turkey and Syria to Baghdad and Basra," said Salam Jabr Saloom, the director general of Iraq's state-owned railway company, told AFP.

Because of its importance, the station was "exposed to many terrorist attacks before the entry of Daesh," Saloom said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

The station was built in the 1940s, and was "very important from a trade standpoint," as it was a "launch point for trains carrying goods to Syria and Turkey and back," railway company spokesman Abdulsattar Mohsen told AFP.

"But it stopped after the Daesh attack on Mosul," Mohsen said, referring to an IS offensive that overran the city and swathes of other territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014.

Trains from Mosul once carried passengers as well, but have not done so since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime by US-led forces in 2003, he said.

Iraqi forces are operating on the edge of the Old City, a warren of narrow streets and closely spaced buildings where hundreds of thousands of people may still reside.

The area, in which they will have to advance on foot when armoured vehicles cannot enter the small streets, could see some of the toughest fighting of the Mosul campaign.

Iraqi forces launched the massive operation to retake Mosul in October, first retaking its eastern side and then setting their sights on the smaller but more densely-populated west.

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