Iraqi forces are “advancing faster than expected” in a major offensive to recapture Mosul from Islamic State jihadists, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday. “We are advancing faster than we had expected and planned,” Abadi said, speaking on a video conference link to an international meeting co-hosted by France and Iraq on the future of Mosul

following the start of the offensive this week. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had warned Tuesday that the battle to retake Iraq’s second-biggest city could take “months.” French President Francois Hollande told Thursday’s meeting that the jihadists were already fleeing to Raqqa, their stronghold in neighboring Syria. FULL REPORT