CANBERRA, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East must prepare for a mass exodus of militants if the Iraqi city of Mosul is liberated, Australian Defense Minister Marise Payne said on Friday.


Speaking about the difficulty of containing an unpredictable enemy, Payne said liberating the makeshift IS capital of Mosul in northern Iraq could occur as early as this year, though dealing with the fallout of success must be in the plans of military planners.


"We know that there will be a reasonable number of foreign fighters who are said to be part of the (IS) numbers in Mosul," Payne told Fairfax Media on Friday.


"We and many of our partners in the coalition are very conscious of that and what happens to them. They may be victims of the operation. They may try to escape the operation. They may survive the operation and try and go elsewhere."


She said there was a real dangers associated with liberating the city, as IS militants and leader could scatter to their countries of origin, or to other, nearby cities and set up resistance elsewhere.


"Obviously there is absolutely no desire in any part of the international coalition for those foreign fighters to be able to return to their countries of origin," Payne said.


"Do they move elsewhere in the region? Do they end up hypothetically heading towards Syria?"


Payne said a number of high-profile IS operatives were "trying to sell property (in Mosul) and get out", as coalition fighters look likely to capture the city in the coming months.


She said she came across this information after a recent meeting with U.S. Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi and Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi in Iraq.


Mosul is currently under IS control, but is under fire from local Kurdish militants as well as Iraqi national forces.


Payne said coalition forces must increase its attention of restabilizing the areas around Mosul if it is captured, and added that Aussie forces would help advise Iraqi special forces if any attack on the city goes ahead.


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SYDNEY, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Warmer ocean waters have resulted in the largest recorded coral die-off at Australia's Great Barrier Reef, scientists studying the area said Tuesday.


The worst-hit area, stretching 700 km at the northern part of the world's largest coral reef system, has lost about two-thirds of its shallow-water corals in the past eight to nine months, according to a media release from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.


"Most of the losses in 2016 have occurred in the northern, most-pristine part of the Great Barrier Reef. This region escaped with minor damage in two earlier bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, but this time around it has been badly affected," said the centre's director, Professor Terry Hughes, who conducted extensive aerial surveys at the height of the bleaching.


Warm waters can force corals to expel or lose algae, calcifying and turning them white.


Scientists expect the northern region to take at least 10 to 15 years to regain the lost corals, but they are concerned that a fourth bleaching event could occur sooner and interrupt the slow recovery, according to the centre.


The southern two-thirds of the reef "escaped with minor damage", said Professor Andrew Baird, who is also from the centre and led teams of divers to re-survey the reefs in October and November.


"On average, 6 percent of bleached corals died in the central region in 2016, and only 1 percent in the south. The corals have now regained their vibrant colour, and these reefs are in good condition," he said.


Tourism on the Great Barrier Reef, which covers more than 340,000 square kilometers, employs 70,000 people and generates 5 billion Australian dollars in income each year, according to the centre.

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