Iraqi militia threatens ISIL supply lines

Iraqi Shi'ite militias said on Wednesday they had driven Islamic State fighters from an air base west of Mosul, a victory which would threaten the Sunni group's supply route from Syria to its last major stronghold in Iraq.

"The airport of Tal Afar has been liberated," Yusif al-Kallabi, a spokesman for Popular Mobilisation, a coalition of mainly Iranian-backed militias, told Iraqi state TV.

The capture of the base, if confirmed, could be a significant development in the campaign to recapture Mosul, Islamic State's de facto capital since its forces swept through Iraq in 2014 and set up a self-declared caliphate in a swathe of Syria and northern Iraq.

Tal Afar lies about 60 km (38 miles) west of Mosul on the main road to Syria. Its seizure could also alarm Turkey, which is wary of Iraqi Shi'ite involvement in the civil war in Syria.

"Tal Afar will be the starting block for the liberation of all the the Syrian border and beyond the Syria border," said Hadi al-Amiri, head of Badr Organization, Popular Mobilisation's largest component, in a video clip.

While the Shi'ite coalition is fighting Islamic State west of Mosul, regular army and police units are trying to advance from the other sides, backed by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters deployed in the north and the east.

Iraqi counter-terrorism forces breached Islamic State defenses in east Mosul two weeks ago but have faced resistance from the militants, who have fought back with suicide car bombs, snipers and waves of counter-attacks.
The Turks have no legitimate claim to Tal Afar.  It is Western Iraq and was the site of one of the first successful counterinsurgency operations during the time the US was in Iraq. If the Iraqi forces can hold it Tal Afar can also be used to cut off the ISIL line of retreat from Mosul as other forces drive them out.


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