Iraqis cut ISIL escape route from Mosul as US bombs pound the enemy
U.S.-backed Iraqi army units on Wednesday took control of the last major road out of western Mosul that had been in Islamic State's hands, trapping the militants in a shrinking area within the city, a general and residents said.Meanwhile in another Reuters story:
The army's 9th Armored Division was within a kilometer of Mosul's Syria Gate, the city's northwestern entrance, a general from the unit told Reuters by telephone.
"We effectively control the road, it is in our sight," he said.
Mosul residents said they had not been able to travel on the highway that starts at the Syria Gate since Tuesday. The road links Mosul to Tal Afar, another Islamic State stronghold 60 km (40 miles) to the west, and then to Syria.
The U.S.-led coalition effort against Islamic State is killing the group's fighters more quickly than it can replace them, a senior British general said on Tuesday, with more than 45,000 killed by coalition air strikes up to August last year.Those who escape may move to a guerilla campaign and continue terrorist attacks against the US and its allies. Destroying as many of them as possible before that happens could reduce the threat.
On Tuesday, U.S.-backed Iraqi forces continued their offensive in Mosul, where several thousand Islamic State (IS) militants, including many who traveled from Western countries to join up, are believed to be based.
"We are killing Daesh at a rate that they simply can't sustain," said Major General Rupert Jones, deputy commander for the Combined Joint Task Force coalition, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
"The enemy cannot sustain the attrition that they are suffering and therefore they lose terrain, they lose battles."
The top American commander in Iraq said earlier this month he believed U.S.-backed forces would recapture Islamic State's two major strongholds - Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq - within the next six months.