EghtesadOnline: Iraqi were massing troops on Monday to cut remaining supply routes to Mosul, IS's (Daesh terrorist group) last major stronghold in Iraq, closing in on the road that links the Syrian and Iraqi parts of its self-declared caliphate.
Five weeks into the U.S.-backed offensive on Mosul, daesh is fighting in the area of Tal Afar, 60 km (40 miles) to the west, against a coalition of groups known as Popular Mobilisation forces.
Cutting the western road to Tal Afar would seal off Mosul as the city is already surrounded to the north, south and east by Iraqi government and Kurdish peshmerga forces, according to ILNA.
The government's U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service unit breached daesh's defenses in east Mosul at the end of October and is fighting to expand a foothold it gained there.
The road to Tal Afar is no longer safe, said a truck driver who used it two days ago to bring in fruit and vegetables from Raqqa, daesh's Syrian stronghold.
He said he saw three trucks burning on the road while fighting raged in the vicinity. "This is the last time I drive on this road, it will be cut," he told Reuters by telephone, asking not to be identified as the insurgents punish by death those caught communicating with the outside world.
A Popular Mobilisation spokesman said over the weekend that its forces were already advancing to the main highway as part of operations to seal off Mosul. A Reuters reporter said they were massing troops to finish encircling Tal Afar.
The Iraqi air force supporting Popular Mobilisation groups in their fight near Tal Afar carried out air strikes that killed 15 insurgents, including a group that was hiding in a tunnel near Tal Afar air base, according to a military statement on Sunday evening.