KHAZER, Oct 18 (AP/BBC): Iraqi and Kurdish commanders said Tuesday they have paused their advance on Mosul a day after the start of a massive operation to retake the Islamic State-held city, which is expected to take weeks, if not months.
The front lines to the east of Mosul were largely quiet, a day after Iraqi Kurdish forces advanced amid a barrage of U.S.-led airstrikes and heavy artillery.
"We are just holding our positions," said Col. Khathar Sheikhan, of the Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga, which captured a handful of villages east of Mosul on Monday. "The Iraqi army will now advance past our arenas of control."
"We have achieved our objectives," he said.
But an Iraqi special forces commander said his troops have delayed an advance following a request from Kurdish forces for more time to achieve their goals. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts.
Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil said his men had planned to move at dawn, but postponed the operation. He said Iraqi army and Kurdish commanders would meet later on Tuesday.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had announced the long-awaited offensive before dawn Monday, vowing to liberate the city from more than two years of extremist rule. Mosul is Iraq's second largest city and the IS group's last major urban bastion in the country.
The large and complex battle for Mosul is expected to last weeks or months. It will involve more than 25,000 troops, including the Iraqi army, the Kurdish peshmerga, Sunni tribal fighters and Shiite militias. The U.S. military is providing air support and playing a supporting role on the ground.
A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition said the operation was proceeding as planned and that Iraqi forces were making "excellent progress."
"There's no pause in efforts to liberate Mosul. Troops are on the move on various axes of advance toward the city," said Col. John Dorrian. "Some commanders have reached their objectives ahead of schedule after encountering light-to-moderate resistance."
Another report adds: The European Union should be prepared for an influx of jihadists if the so-called Islamic State (IS) is driven out of its Iraqi stronghold, Mosul, the EU's security commissioner warns.
Julian King told Germany's Die Welt newspaper that even a small number of militants would pose "a serious threat that we must prepare ourselves for".
Iraqi forces launched what is expected to be a lengthy offensive on Monday.
As many as 5,000 IS fighters are believed to remain in Mosul.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday that it feared the fighters might use civilians as human shields as the offensive advanced - either by hiding amongst them as they fled the city or by preventing them from leaving.