World

U.S. general claims ISIS leaders 'abandoning' Mosul as coalition forces advance

Islamic State militants accused of using human shields in Mosul as coalition forces advance

Islamic State fighters are likely to put up a stiff defense of Mosul but eventually lose their grip and morph into an insurgency, a U.S. Army general said Wednesday. Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, commander of U.S. and coalition land forces in Iraq, said some ISIS forces already are giving up their positions in the outskirts of Mosul and pulling back into the city. He said he expects this trend to continue. They are then likely to attempt to block the entry of Iraqi forces into the city, using a "full-fledged conventional defense." At some point, he predicted, the Iraqi forces will prevail, and at that point, "I expect they are going to go into insurgency mode." Volesky also said that some ISIS leaders have been fleeing Mosul as U.S.-backed local forces close in on the jihadists' last Iraqi stronghold.

We are telling Daesh that their leaders are abandoning them. We've seen a movement out of Mosul. Where they are going, I will leave that to our [missile] targeteers to take care of.

Volesky in a video briefing from Baghdad, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS

Iraqi forces were preparing to retake several key areas around Mosul, including the country's largest Christian town, Qaraqosh, to tighten the noose on the Islamic State group's stronghold. Kurdish and federal troops have made quick progress since the offensive was launched on Monday, but officials have cautioned that Iraq's largest military operation in years could last months. The militants have put up fierce resistance in villages surrounding the city, where most of the fighting has been concentrated. ISIS has sent trucks loaded with explosives careening toward the frontlines and fired mortars to slow the Iraqi forces' advance. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were still trapped in the city with dwindling supplies, many sheltering in basements as airstrikes intensified on ISIS targets.

We couldn't sleep last night because of the airstrikes. The explosions were huge but I'm not sure what the targets were. Many families are starting to run out of some basic food goods, there is no commercial activity in Mosul — the city is cut off from the world.

Abu Saif, a 47-year-old resident contacted by AFP
Summarized by

6,000

FIGHTERS

Fierce resistance

A senior Iraqi general has called on Iraqis fighting for the Islamic State group in Mosul to surrender. Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati told reporters at a military base that up to 6,000 ISIS fighters are inside the city. He did not say how many of them are foreigners.

1.5M

AT GREAT RISK

Mosul residents

The United Nations believes up to 1.5 million people in Mosul will be at great risk of being targeted, caught in crossfire, forcibly expelled or used as human shields. Save the Children said 5,000 people have already fled to a refugee camp in northeastern Syria from the Mosul area in the past 10 days, with another 1,000 waiting to enter at the border.

The extremist group has suffered a string of defeats over the past year, and Mosul is its last major urban bastion in Iraq.

Topic in-depth

A look at U.S. role against ISIS as Mosul offensive takes off

The United States has perhaps as much to gain from the operation as the Iraqis.
Associated Press