Iraqi forces members prepare to fire artillery towards Islamic State (IS) jihadists positions in west Mosul on March 11, 2017 as the ongoing battle to retake the city from the group continues. PHOTO: ARIS MESSINIS / AFP
Iraqi forces battling to retake Mosul have cut the last road out of the city, trapping Islamic State group fighters inside, the US envoy to the anti-IS coalition said Sunday.
IS “is trapped. Just last night, the 9th Iraqi army division, up near Badush, just northwest of Mosul, cut off the last road out of Mosul,” Brett McGurk told journalists in Baghdad.
“Any of the fighters who are left in Mosul, they’re going to die there, because they’re trapped. So we are very committed to not just defeating them in Mosul, but making sure these guys cannot escape,” he said.
In practice, IS fighters may still be able to sneak in and out of the city in small numbers, but the lack of access to roads makes larger-scale movement and resupply more difficult if not impossible.
IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and other support have since retaken 60 percent of the territory they lost, McGurk said.
And the jihadist group is now losing fighters faster than it can replace them, he said.
“That was not the case even a year ago,” said McGurk, putting the toll for IS leaders at 180 killed.
Iraqi forces launched a massive operation to retake Mosul in October, retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on the city’s smaller but more densely populated west.