Foreign fighters in the ranks of the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) are bearing the brunt of the battle for Mosul as many of the group's Iraqi elements fled ahead of the liberating forces, security officials told Diyaruna.
These fighters do not know the terrain or escape routes, they said, and do not have relatives they can turn to, so they have little choice but to stay behind.
Activists have been circulating a video on social media which appears to show a foreign fighter in Mosul begging for support from ISIL's Iraqi fighters in the city.
"Are you being cowardly, O descendants of Omar, Othman and Ali? Have you lost your courage to meet God Almighty, or do you not want the white-eyed maidens, nor desire paradise?" the ISIL fighter pleads, in tears.
Soon after the offensive to liberate the Ninawa province city began, a coalition commander predicted that foreign fighters will form a large contingent of extremists remaining in the city, as they have nowhere else to go .
"We are telling ISIL that their leaders are abandoning them. We have seen a movement out of Mosul," said US Army Maj. Gen. Gary Volesky, who heads the land component command of the international coalition to defeat ISIL.
Left to fight alone
"The foreign terrorists' escape routes have been cut and they do not know the roads and terrain well. They have been left to meet their inevitable fate on their own," said Brig. Gen. Haider al-Obaidi of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS).
"Their bodies are filling the battlefields, and CTS forces have found dozens of dead foreign fighters in liberated areas east of Mosul," he told Diyaruna.
The number of foreign fighters in Mosul is unknown, said Iraqi MP Abbas Jabbar, who serves on the parliamentary security committee member.
"What we do know today is that they constitute the bulk of the estimated 3,000 Iraqi and foreign terrorists fighting for ISIL in Mosul," he told Diyaruna.
Foreign fighters hail from around 100 countries, he said, with most joining the group's ranks from Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Arab and European nations.
Ousting these fighters requires more time, Jabbar said, "as their influx into Iraq will not stop until security conditions in Syria fully stabilise and the joint borders between the two countries are secured".
Al-Qaim last resort
Any foreign fighters who remain once the battle for Mosul is over will most likely head to the western outskirts of neighbouring Anbar province in search of safe passage to Syria, said Haditha tribal mobilisation commander Awad al-Jughaifi.
"After Mosul is liberated, most foreign fighters will head to the towns of Rawa, al-Qaim, and Anah in the westernmost part of Anbar, which are still under ISIL control," he told Diyaruna.
The group has strongholds in those towns, which it considers to be its rear base in Iraq, he said, noting that the families of many ISIL commanders live there.
"The liberation of those cities, which will be achieved soon, along with the seizing of the border strip with Syria, will help completely eliminate this alien presence and break the terrorist group's backbone in the centre and north of the country," he said.