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Iraqi army 10 km away from Mosul

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The front lines to the east of Mosul were largely quiet, a day after Iraqi Kurdish forces advanced amid a barrage of US -led airstrikes and heavy artillery.

With troops now at a similar distance to the city in the north, south and east, a concerted push from three directions is expected to be the next stage in the operation.

French warplanes and artillery are active as part of the USA -led coalition supporting the Iraqi military campaign to take back Mosul.

Attacking Iraqi forces are still 12 to 30 miles (20 to 50 km) from the city itself and U.S. officials believe that Islamic State is most likely to use chemical weapons later in the campaign, in what could be a hard, protracted battle.

On Tuesday attacking forces entered another phase, Zebari said. He described a "sort of leapfrog situation" where the Iraqi forces will move ahead to Mosul and the Kurdish forces will remain in place to secure the Kurdish populated areas. Col. Abdel Rahman al-Khazali, a spokesman for federal police, said his forces had reached Shora, 20 miles south of Mosul.

Retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor, who served twice in Iraq, tells NPR that while Kurdish and Iraqi forces outnumber ISIS fighters "by more than 10 to 1" - and have the backing of the US -led coalition's firepower - the battle will be a slow and bloody grind.

Meanwhile, Russian experts and bloggers suggest that the Mosul offensive will be accompanied by "somewhat of a race" between the participants as nobody wants to miss the opportunity of becoming a "winner over the Caliphate" especially taking into account that it was in Mosul's Great Mosque where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, declared the self-proclaimed Caliphate back in 2014 and called on the world's Muslims to "obey" him as the head of the Caliphate.

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Fighting has lulled in some areas, but is continuing in others, and airstrikes by the USA -led coalition continue, NPR's Alice Fordham reports from Kalak, Iraq.

The United Nations has said up to a million people could flee the city and that it expected the first big wave in five or six days, indicating fighting would reach the city then. If the Turkish military takes part in the offensive, it will be without coordination with the Iraqi army, complicating the drive towards Mosul.

The military campaign could last weeks, officials predict.

Iraq and Kurdish commanders recently announced a pause in the advance. Agoub will govern along with a senior representative from Baghdad and from Erbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

It is feared that ISIL propaganda footage allegedly showing people going about there business quite normally in Mosul on Monday could well fuel suspicions and lead to more revenge attacks like those already carried out in Fallujah.

Amnesty International urged Iraqi authorities to keep Shi'ite paramilitary groups away from Mosul whose population is largely Sunni.

It comes as Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said aid agencies are ready to assist civilians fleeing the fighting.

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