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ISIS fighters spotted escaping Mosul disguised in women's clothing

Cowardly ISIS fighters dressed in women’s clothes are fleeing Mosul while the group’s commanders have ordered their wives and girlfriends to escape before the city is encircled.

Their desperate last-ditch orders come as Kurdish forces and elite Iraqi counter-terror troops began a lightning advance on the city.

Pictures shared online show two men, purported to be enemy fighters, being paraded before liberating troops while wearing dresses.

It has also emerged leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – who is rumoured to be holed up inside the besieged city – has ordered the “women of the caliphate” to leave.

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Leading US generals and French president Francois Hollande say ISIS fighters are fleeing – and must be blocked from regrouping in nearby Raqqa.

Major General Gary Volesky, who heads the anti-ISIS coalition’s land component, said: “We are telling Daesh (ISIS) that their leaders are abandoning them. We’ve seen a movement out of Mosul.”

He said many foreigners among the 3,000 to 4,500 ISIS fighters would likely end up forming the core of the holdout jihadist force.

Volesky noted that the Iraqis would screen anyone leaving Mosul, and attempts by foreign fighters to blend in to an expected exodus of displaced people would be thwarted.

"It's difficult for them to blend into the local population based on the number of different types of foreign fighters that there are."

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Thursday the offensive in Mosul was progressing more quickly than originally planned.

His comments come as Kurdish peshmerga announced a three-pronged assault to the north and east of the city, while elite Iraqi special forces moved in from the south.

He said: "The forces are pushing towards the town more quickly than we thought and more quickly than we had programmed in our campaign plan."

The addition of the elite troops, also known as counter terrorism forces, marks a significant intensification of the fight for Iraq's second-largest city.

As they advanced, attack helicopters fired on the militants and heavy gunfire echoed across the plains.

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