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Coalition cuts critical Islamic State supply lines between Iraq and Syria

IS loses access to primary travel routes it previously used to move people and goods into Iraq
A Combined Joint Task Force statement said 94 villages were freed from Islamic State militants

Forces fighting the Islamic State (IS) group have cut critical communication and supply lines used by the militants between Syria and Iraq after a two-week operation, the US-led coalition said on Tuesday.

Backed by airstrikes, the forces "overcame ISIL (IS) resistance" in northeastern Syria near the strategic town of Tal Hamis - once an IS stronghold - and "denied the terrorist group its freedom of manoeuvre in the area", the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement.  

During the operation, which ended Saturday, the IS group lost access to primary transport routes it has previously used to move personnel and materials into Iraq. 

"Anti-ISIL forces were able to seize critical portions of route 47 in Syria, a key ISIL communications and supply line leading into Iraq," it added, noting that 94 villages were freed from the clutches of the militants. 

The statement did not specify which local groups took part in the given operations.  

The coalition said "multiple" IS weapons systems, vehicles and fighting positions were also destroyed.  

"This operation demonstrated the ability of anti-ISIL forces to further degrade Daesh influence in this region," Combined Joint Task Force commander Lieutenant General James Terry said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for the IS group, which commands vast areas of Iraq and Syria. 

"The determination of these anti-ISIL forces and our precision airstrikes enabled us to deny Daesh this key terrain in Syria." 

Kurdish forces seized Tal Hamis on 27 February with the help of Arab fighters, but fighting then continued in the area. 

Earlier on Tuesday, IS blew up the only bridge over the Tigris River in the entire Tikrit area as Iraqi forces continued to seal off the city. 

IS is believed to have only a few hundred men inside Tikrit, but government forces have said their advance has been slowed by large numbers of roadside bombs and booby traps planted by the militants all around the city.

Syrian Kurdish militias are currently fighting IS in northeastern Syria, while in Iraq, Kurdish peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army, accompanied by tribal and Shiite militias, are fighting IS.  

The Iraqi army is also conducting an offensive against IS in attempts to push the extremist group north, and with the help tribal forces and Shiite militias, Iraqis have seized control of large areas in Anbar province northeast of Baghdad.

Clashes between Iraqi forces and IS have been ongoing since last June when the militants seized Mosul and other territories in Iraq.

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