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Iraq forces cut off IS-held Mosul from Syria

To the west of Mosul, Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) paramilitary forces made a push to cut the road between two towns on the route heading to Syria, security officials said.

AFP | Mosul |

Forces battling the Islamic State group in northern Iraq cut
off the jihadists’ last supply line from Mosul to Syria on Wednesday, trapping them in
the city for a bloody last stand.

A day after the last major bridge over the Tigris in Mosul
was bombed by the US-led coalition against IS, elite forces fighting in the
east of the city also reported significant progress.

To the west of Mosul, Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular
Mobilisation) paramilitary forces made a push to cut the road between two towns
on the route heading to Syria, security officials said.

“Hashed forces have cut off the Tal Afar-Sinjar
road,” senior Hashed commander Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis said on social media.

A Kurdish security official said that Hashed forces had
linked up with other anti-IS forces, including Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)
fighters, in three villages in the area.

The town of Tal Afar itself, which lies about 50 kilometres
west of Mosul, is still under the control of the jihadists.

Iraqi forces launched a major offensive on October 17 to
retake Mosul, which is the country’s second city and where jihadist supremo Abu
Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate in 2014.

Federal forces have already entered the city from the east.
Kurdish peshmerga and other forces are also closing in from the north and
south, while only the west had remained open.

The latest development will make it very long and dangerous
for IS if it attempts to move fighters and equipment between Mosul and the
Syrian city of Raqa, the last two bastions of their crumbling
“state”.

A US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance launched an offensive
against Raqa on November 5 but its fighters have some way to go before reaching
the city.

In Iraq, almost two and a half years after IS took over
swathes of the country, forces backed by the US and other partners have
regained much ground.

Mosul is the last major prize in Iraq for the diverse and
sometimes rival forces involved in the anti-IS effort, but the jihadists have
offered stiffer resistance than elsewhere.

The eastern side of the city was expected to offer less
resistance than the west bank but elite forces from the Counter-Terrorism
Service (CTS) have faced a torrid time.

IS fighters moving in an intricate network of tunnels have
used snipers, booby traps and a seemingly endless supply of suicide car bombers
to stop Iraqi forces.