World diplomats seek post-battle plan for IS bastion Mosul
Iraq's prime minister vowed yesterday to protect civilians fleeing the battle to oust Islamic State extremists from Mosul, as the offensive picked up speed and diplomats worked to ensure the gains are lasting - and that jihadists don't escape.
French President Francois Hollande, hosting a conference on stabilising Mosul, urged the international community not to abandon the city once the multi-pronged military operation is over. Diplomats from the US, Iraq and some 20 other countries gathered in Paris to devise a plan to protect civilians, distribute aid and address questions about governing areas newly liberated from IS.
The offensive for Mosul - Iraq's second-largest city and the biggest IS-held city - is expected to take weeks, if not months. There are fears it could unleash sectarian tensions and threaten civilians in a region ravaged by years of violence.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said yesterday that Mosul may fall sooner than expected.
"The fighting forces are currently pushing forward toward the town more quickly than we thought, and more quickly certainly than we established in our plan of campaign," he told the Paris conference via video transmission.
MANY TO FLEE
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned that up to a million people might try to flee Mosul, and said authorities must check each one to ensure extremists are not among them.
Ayrault also said the international community must think about the next step - notably, what do about the IS stronghold of Raqqa in Syria.
As the Mosul fighting intensifies, Al-Abadi said the Iraqi government is "providing support for internally displaced people," and opening humanitarian corridors amid the ongoing military operations.
"We will not allow any violations of human rights," he said.