Washington: Islamic State leaders have fled the Iraqi city of Mosul which is under a massive siege by Iraqi forces, aided by the US-led coalition forces, a US general has said.
Operation Inherent Resolve commander US Gen. Gary Volesky said at a briefing on Wednesday that most of the foreign fighters recruited by the terror group have remained to defend Mosul, the outfit's stronghold.
"We have got indications that [Islamic State] leaders have left, a lot of foreign fighters we expect will stay," Volesky told reporters at the Pentagon.
The US Army general and coalition spokesman explained that it is harder for foreign fighters to flee the area than for local jihadists.
"They will be the ones [who] really want to stay and fight…because they really do not have any other place to go," Volesky said.
On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi announced the start of military operations to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants. The US-led coalition is providing Iraqi Security Forces with air power, artillery, intelligence, advisers and other support, the US military's Central Command has said.
The Islamic State, which is outlawed in Russia and other countries, seized Mosul in 2014 along with a number of other Iraqi cities and towns.