ISIL’s last supply line from Mosul to Syria has been severed by Iraqi-led forces, leaving the armed group’s stronghold completely isolated.
Shia-Muslim paramilitary forces, known as Hashed al-Shaabi, captured the road linking Tal Afar to Sinjar west of Mosul on Wednesday and linked up with Kurdish forces there, security officials say.
“Hashed forces have cut off the Tal Afar-Sinjar road,” Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, a senior commander, said on social media.
Also on Wednesday, an air strike by the US-led coalition “disabled” the fourth bridge on the Tigris River in Mosul, leaving the city with a single functioning connection and further disrupting ISIL’s supply lines.
Aamaq news agency, ISIL’s media arm, and a top Iraqi commander in Mosul reported the air strike, which took place before dawn.
It was the second to target a Mosul bridge this week and the fourth since shortly before the launch of the offensive to retake the city.
Iraqi forces kicked off the operation – backed by US-led air strikes – on October 17 to retake the country’s second-largest city, where ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate in 2014.
Troops have already entered the city from the east, Kurdish Peshmerga and other forces are also closing in from the north and south and only the west had remained open.
The latest development will make it long and dangerous for ISIL if it attempts to move fighters and equipment between Mosul and the Syrian city of Raqqa, the last two bastions of their crumbling “caliphate”.