A US military official says there are signs that leaders from Islamic State have fled Mosul as Iraqi forces advance on the jihadists’ stronghold.
“We’ve seen movement out of Mosul; we’ve got indications that leaders have left,” BBC News quoted Major General Gary Volesky, the commander of US-led coalition ground forces in the fight against Islamic State, as saying.
“Make no doubt the Iraqi security forces have the momentum,” Volesky said.
Iraqi government forces are moving towards Mosul from the south, while their Kurdish allies have been fighting on the eastern and northern frontlines.
It is estimated that as many as 5,000 IS fighters are still in the city, the British broadcaster said.
Volesky, however, did not specify who had fled, nor did he say where they had gone to.
It’s not clear where the militant group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Some say he is still in Mosul, while others says he has fled the northern Iraqi city.
It is possible that fighters leaving the city were simply deployed to the frontlines, according to the BBC’s Middle East analyst Alan Johnston says.
It is generally believed that hardcore IS militants are still in Mosul with the intention of defending the city, which is their last major stronghold.
The charity Save the Children says 5,000 people from the conflict area have fled to a refugee camp over the border in Syria in the last 10 days, with another 1,000 waiting at the border.
In a worst case scenario 1 million people could be displaced by the Mosul campaign, requiring emergency housing and food, Reuters quoted UN officials as saying.
The United Nations has warned that some 100,000 people may arrive in Syria from the Mosul area.
Iraqi officials and residents of Mosul say Islamic State is preventing people from leaving the city but civilians are fleeing from outlying districts and villages, the news agency reported.
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