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France’s Hollande warns Mosul's IS group fighters could flee to Raqqa

FRANCE 24 screen grab

French President Francois Hollande warned Thursday that Islamic State (IS) group jihadists under attack in the Iraqi city of Mosul are already fleeing to Raqa, their stronghold in neighbouring Syria.

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"We can't afford mistakes in the pursuit of the terrorists who are already leaving Mosul for Raqa," Hollande told a conference in Paris, where diplomats are gathered to discuss ways to stabilise Mosul once it is freed from IS group control.

The French president urged the international community not to abandon the city once the multi-pronged military operation is over.

Delegates from the US, Iraq and some 20 other countries are expected 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 group-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 Thursday 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.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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