Popular Mobilization Units fighters talk on the radio as they watch ISIS positions in the airport of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Iraq, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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Iraqi Shiite militias were massing troops Monday to cut remaining supply routes to Mosul, ISIS's last major stronghold in Iraq, closing in on the road that links the Syrian and Iraqi parts of its self-declared "Caliphate".Six weeks into the U.S.-backed offensive on Mosul, ISIS is fighting in the area of Tal Afar, 60 km (40 miles) to the west, against a coalition of Iranian-backed groups known as Popular Mobilization.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.The Iraqi airforce supporting Popular Mobilization in their fight near Tal Afar carried out airstrikes that killed 15 insurgents, including a group that was hiding in a tunnel near Tal Afar airbase, according to a military statement published Sunday evening.Iraqi military estimates put the number of insurgents in Mosul at 5,000 to 6,000, facing a 100,000-strong coalition of Iraqi government units, Peshmerga fighters and Shi'ite militias.
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