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IS leaders fleeing Mosul, US general claims

US Army Major General Gary Volesky says movement of IS leaders has been spotted away from Mosul. Photograph: (Getty)

AFP Washington, DC, United States Oct 19, 2016, 08.26 PM (IST)

As the US-backed Iraqi army closes in on Mosul, the last major stronghold of the Islamic State in Irqa, leaders of the jihadist group are fleeing the town, a US general said.

Major General Gary Volesky, who heads the US-led coalition's ground attack against the IS, said his army had "seen a movement out of Mosul and that the leaders were being attacked as they fled.  "We are telling Daesh (IS) that their leaders are abandoning them. We've seen a movement out of Mosul," he told the press in a video briefing from Baghdad.

He, however, refused to disclose when they fled or where they were headed."Where they are going, I will leave that to our (missile) targeteers to take care of," Volesky said.

He also predicted that mainly foreign fighters of the militant group would remain since they would have nowhere to go.

"It's difficult for them to blend into the local population based on the number of different types of foreign fighters that there are," Volesky said."We expect that they will be the ones (who stay and fight), because they really don't have any other place to go."

He added that Iraqis would screen anyone leaving Mosul, and attempts by foreign fighters to blend in to an expected exodus of displaced people would be thwarted.

The tens of thousands of Iraqi forces vastly outnumber the 3,500 to 5,000 IS fighters in the Mosul offensive which began on Monday.

US President Barack Obama joins the voices who warn that though the US-backed forces are making quick progress, the battle would be tough. General Joseph Votel, who heads the US military's Central Command, warned that the battle would last for weeks to months, AFP reported.

Officials also warn that the IS may use the civilians still in the city as human shields. Military strategists also expect the IS to deploy rudimentary chemical weapons.

(WION with inputs from AFP)


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