In Mosul, What To Do With Extremists’ Families?

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 “The families of the Islamic State are more dangerous than the members of the Islamic State themselves,” says Basma Basim, the head of the Mosul district council. “They are the soil in which the seeds of the Islamic State have been planted and allowing them to stay in the city will mean a repeat of the bloody scenario that has taken place here.”

Basim told NIQASH that she thinks the families associated with the Islamic State group, the extremist organization that has controlled Mosul for around three years, should leave the city on their own. She was particularly keen after seeing what happened in the nearby town of Qayyarah, home to the IS treasury for more than two years, repeated in the larger city: There locals got together to push the Islamic State, or IS, families out of their town, without any need for intervention from local security forces.

Public anger about the situation has impacted the Mosul council. On June 10, they did issue decisions along these lines, stating that IS families should not be allowed to return. However, Basim says no action has yet been taken.

Punishing or isolating innocent people will just mean that we are creating schools for terror.

 “The IS families are not worth more than the families of those people who were killed or dishonoured or displaced, or who lost their sources of living,” Basim argues. “If the IS families had any sense of responsibility, they would leave without being forced. They would do it to honour the martyrs, or out of their own shame.”

This opinion is just one of the many that are being debated by locals in Mosul today. The question of what to do with the families whose children joined the IS group, or who worked for the IS group, over the past three years, has yet to be resolved. Whatever solution is eventually agreed upon, it will affect hundreds of Mosul families.

But there are also plenty of other opinions.

The IS families who are not convicted of any wrong doing should be allowed to stay in Mosul but their movements should be restricted, suggests well-known Mosul novelist, Ghada Siddiq Rasool, who left for Baghdad in 2015. They should be carefully monitored, Rasoul says: They need psychological rehabilitation, their place of work should be recorded and observed, and they should be obliged to volunteer for community work. If the families are expelled, they will pose even more danger in the future, Rasoul says.

Under the IS group’s rule, local engineer Salam Saeed lost a brother, who died along with other members of his family when their house collapsed; the family had been hiding in the basement. Saeed also lost his own house and the business he started 20 years ago. So he believes the IS families must pay in some way – that would only be fair, Saeed says.

Despite the various videos that have been appearing online, showing how suspected members of the IS group are being interrogated, beaten and even executed by the Iraqi pro-government forces, Saeed is actually critical of the way IS families have been being treated by the pro-government forces.

 

A mural in Mosul painted by the IS group, as propaganda. The Arabic says: We will win and we know that all the coalition countries are our enemies. (photo: Getty)

 

“Many of them [the IS members] escaped from Mosul through the humanitarian corridors that the military tried to open up during the fighting,” Saeed points out. “They just mixed with innocent civilians: We even saw some of them on the news. That’s not justice. They should suffer the way that we have suffered.”

A journalist working for the Al Mosuliya satellite TV channel, which broadcasts out of Istanbul, identified several members of the IS group infiltrating the displaced locals who were fleeing the fighting. The pictures of those IS members were published on Facebook and there was a lot of anger directed at the security forces, for allowing the perpetrators to escape. Iraqis also voiced fears on social media, that this meant that IS sleeper cells were already being assembled.

Saeed believes that the Iraqi military don’t have a proper overview of who was, and who was not, involved with the IS group. But locals such as himself do. “They should get help from the people who lived under IS for three years,” Saeed told NIQASH. “Because we saw everything with our own eyes.”

“The members of the IS group and their families have committed ugly crimes against us,” says Othman Qassim, a civil society activist, who was critical of those who were advocating a more tolerant approach. “They should be punished. We will only accept an eye for an eye.”

Qassim believes that the IS families should be transferred to special camps outside Mosul where they could be supervised by security forces and members of the judiciary as well as the Ministry of Education. The latter needs to be there because the IS families would have to complete courses in rehabilitation before they were allowed to return back to society. As for those locals that actually joined the IS group, they needed to be imprisoned and they should be stripped of their Iraqi nationality, he said.

Local writer Ali al-Jumrad has a different idea. He thinks that isolating all of the IS families in one place creates a whole new danger and that it will eventually result in “an angry and vengeful generation that believes only in the IS group’s ideology. Those children will grow up believing their fathers were martyrs,” al-Jumrad warns.

And what sin did that father commit, that he and his family now have to pay for the crimes of the son?

Al-Jumrad thinks that IS families from outside Mosul should be handed over to their original tribes for safekeeping. “Each tribe should protect the families and observe their behaviours at the same time,” the writer notes. “Tribal leaders should take responsibility for their members before the state. This could happen together with government-sponsored guidance – especially for the children – so that the influence the IS group had on them is diminished.”

As for the IS families originally from Mosul, once again al-Jumrad believes community is the answer. Community leaders in the different neighbourhoods should liaise with security forces to report any suspicious activity. But that needs to be done carefully, al-Jumrad adds. “It should not undermine the dignity of innocent people or create enemies in the society.”

Other locals are committed to a more moderate path when it comes to the families of IS, saying that they want the real criminals punished but that it would not be right to also punish the criminals’ families.

“Women, children and the elderly did not commit any crimes so there is no reason to punish them,” argues Mohammed al-Obaidi, a Mosul lawyer. “I am for punishing those who are convicted, according to the law, but I am against punishing their relatives, by expelling or arresting them. This is an unacceptable form of collective punishment.”

“Punishing or isolating innocent people will just mean that we are creating schools for terror, that only extremists, who want to destroy our society, will graduate from,” he continued. “They will always feel oppressed and they will want revenge upon those who they believe oppressed them. I am not ready to let my sons pay that price in the future, for my mistakes.”

To prove his point, al-Obaidi pointed to the collective punishment of tens of thousands of members of the now-outlawed Baath party, once headed by Saddam Hussein. Former members of the party and the Iraqi army were prosecuted, deprived of job opportunities and otherwise punished. “Most of the leaders of the IS group are former members of Saddam Hussein’s security forces,” he said.

Mosul professor, Ibrahim al-Allaf, former director of the Regional Studies Centre at the University of Mosul, told NIQASH that he knows of one man whose son joined the IS group. The son was eventually killed in fighting. But the father, who once held a senior role in a local government institution, is a peaceful man who loves his country. He had no idea where his son ended up until recently.

“And what sin did that father commit, that he and his family now have to pay for the crimes of the son?” al-Allaf argued. “Only those who actually committed the crimes should be punished.”

“We must work to bring unity back to Mosul,” al-Allaf argues. “We shouldn’t be dragged into this plan to expel families from Mosul because that will just perpetuate the cycles of hatred, and will eventually create organisations far bloodier than the IS group. It’s important to let the families stay and for the government to keep an eye on them.”

 

Civilians treading carefully on the way home because the IS group have left boobytraps.

 

Local journalist and columnist Marwan Yassin al-Dulaimi believes that it would be unwise to get too emotional about this question. He points out that some politicians are already using too much emotional rhetoric around the issue, in order to encourage division and consolidate their own powers. According to al-Dulaimi, the only real solution should be provided by the Iraqi legal system.

“We need to treat people as individuals rather than as herds, the way that the IS group treated them,” al-Dulaimi argues. “Let’s look at other examples. Look at the Kurds and how they reconciled with those who carried arms against them. And look at the experience in South Africa.”

For the time being, as Mosul strains to recover and the remaining IS fighters make their last, suicidal stand in certain parts of the city, nobody seems to have come up with any real conclusions as to what to do with the IS families.

Local rumour has it that no matter what decisions are being made, or that will be made in the future, the process of pushing the IS families out of Mosul has already begun. On condition of anonymity, a local police officer told NIQASH that the Iraqi army has already detained approximately 170 IS families in Bartala, a formerly-Christian-majority town east of Mosul. Nobody has been allowed to leave the camp.

Basim of the Mosul district council says that they have not moved any families to Bartala.

Other information also suggests that the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration has transferred around 100 families from Bartala to another camp, south of Mosul.

The authorities will not acknowledge that these are families with an IS connection. But locals say it is an open secret: Just as in other parts of Iraq, like Tikrit, there is already a special camp for IS families, who are kept separate from other displaced Iraqis, and who may not enter or leave the camp without permission. Their punishment has already begun.  


source: Niqash

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In Mosul,ISIS Promises ‘Divine Intervention’ Will Save Everyone From Iraqi Army

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On the western side of the city of Mosul, the extremist organization known as the Islamic State is readying itself for battle. Over several months of fighting, the Islamic State, or IS, group has lost most of the eastern side of the northern city to Iraqi pro-government forces. Although many of the IS fighters have been killed or have fled the city, the leaders who remain continue to try and convince the local populace of their invincibility. News has arrived that the north-eastern side of the city, often referred to by locals as the Left Bank, has been cleared of the IS group but it seems to many still in the western side, that the extremist organisation doesn’t want to accept that reality.

For example, an IS member recently asked a member of staff at Mosul’s General Hospital why there were not as many doctors and nurses anymore. Incredulous at the question, the staff member told the fighter that many doctors and nurses had lived on the other side of the city and they could no longer cross the Tigris river to come to work.

We have started to burn the furniture for cooking. We’ve already gone through the chairs, closets and beds.

Every week the IS group sends written instructions to their clerics to tell them what the subject of the weekly sermon should be, as well as any messages the extremists want relayed by the church. This week’s instructions indicated that the sermon should be particularly enthusiastic about the fighting to come.

So last Friday, at sermons in Mosul’s mosques on the western side of the city, clerics asked local families to send their sons to fight with the IS group. And according to an attendee at one mosque, the preacher scolded locals for not doing so.

“A young man ascended to the pulpit and began to tell us off,” the eye witness, whose name and location cannot be revealed due to security concerns, told NIQASH. “He began shouting, saying that if you think the infidels [meaning the pro-government forces] are going to reach the right side of the city, you’re dreaming. ‘I swear to you that God will help us win this battle, and that it will be a miracle – in the same way that God supported the Prophet Mohammed and his companions at the Battle of the Trench 1,400 years ago, when he sent violent winds into the infidels’ camps.”

But the IS group is clearly not relying on God alone, other locals say. Dozens of both Arab and foreign fighters are being stationed in the medical complex beside the Tigris river. Snipers occupy the higher floors of the hospital.

 

The ruins of the Iraqi Central Bank in Mosul, being bulldozed by the IS group. 

 

The same kind of thing is happening in other neighbourhoods near the river and on the southern outskirts of the city, which is where the pro-government forces are expected to come in from. IS fighters are taking control of taller buildings and making sure they can move easily between and through them. In the Ghazalani neighbourhood, one resident says suicide bombers have been lining up behind IS leaders and chanting to display their courage: Either victory or martyrdom, they shout.

Locals in the western part of the city can actually see the Iraqi national flag flying on the other side of the city, while the black flag of the IS group still hangs over their own heads. Desperate for news, they discuss every overheard snatch of conversation.

In terms of daily life, the besieged parts of the city haven’t had any deliveries of fresh food for weeks. What is available is being sold at extremely high prices and it seems likely that any stores still open will have to close soon. There is no fuel coming in either and some parts of the city are almost empty of vehicles.  

There’s no gas for cooking or heating and locals share stories of how everyone is surviving in these conditions.

“We have started to use the furniture for cooking – we’ve already gone through the chairs, closets and beds,” one woman told NIQASH in a phone interview; throughout the interview she was coughing because of all the smoke in her house, she said. “Now we are onto the wooden doors. In the near future we are going to have to start burning our clothes, if the Iraqi army doesn’t come soon. It’s like we are living in a different era. Thanks to the Caliph [which is what the leader of the IS group likes to call himself] everything in here is black with smoke: The walls, our faces and everything else.” 


source: Niqash

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In Mosul, Where Every Street Corner Is The Front Line

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Wisam al-Zubaidi is a member of one of Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism troops. But right now he isn’t fighting, he is in a Baghdad hospital nursing a bullet wound in his foot. At a battle east of Mosul, he and his battalion were ambushed by the extremist group known as the Islamic State, which Iraqi forces are currently fighting in northern Iraq. Some of his comrades were killed, others injured and some are still fighting; al-Zubaidi, a member of the elite troops that often fight their way forward into battle before other military units, is still telephoning his colleagues to find out what’s going on.

“I am not scared of being killed,” al-Zubaidi told NIQASH. “I am always thinking of my brothers-in-arms and worrying for them actually. Just a few hours ago, we were drinking tea and talking about our loved ones and out families. I lost one of these friends. He was just a few meters away from me and when they brought us to Baghdad by helicopter, I was next to his dead body the whole way. It was very sad.”

The problem for us is that the IS group doesn’t care about the civilians’ lives. Their aim is to destroy us at any price.

His unit had been ordered to advance into the Hay al-Mualimeen area early in the morning. But just as they were starting to move, a booby-trapped car exploded next to one of the unit’s Hummers and heavy shooting began: They had been ambushed.

“We are fighting from one house to the next,” al-Zubaidi said. “The battle has become urban warfare now.”

While other anti-extremist forces fight outside the city of Mosul, which the extremist Islamic State, or IS, group has controlled for over two years now, the counter-terrorism corps are the only fighters who have been able to penetrate very far into the city itself. They are in control of several urban neighbourhoods but are only able to hold onto them with great difficulty.

The Iraqi army currently controls around ten neighbourhoods in the east of Mosul. But the city has about 60 neighbourhoods in total so it’s a small percentage.

 

Vehicles belonging to counter-terrorism forces enter Mosul.

 

The anti-terrorism forces were established in 2003, as part of a specially trained corps within the Iraqi army. When the Iraqi army crumbled in the face of the IS group’s attacks in June 2014, due to factors such as corruption within the ranks, lack of training and psychological pressure from the enemy, the counter-terrorism troops were the only ones that maintained their cohesion.

The counter-terrorism forces have come to play an important part in the current fighting and generally have a good reputation. Al-Zubaidi has already taken part in many other battles in Iraq, including in Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah. But the fighting in Mosul is the most difficult, al-Zubaidi confirms.

“It is a war being fought while there are thousands of innocent people around. There are shooters everywhere yet at the same time we have old women and children coming up to us,” al-Zubaidi says. “It’s incredibly difficult.” 

“Fighting inside the residential areas is tough,” confirms a captain in the counter-terrorism forces, Ahmad al-Obaidi. “We have three main tasks there: protect innocent civilians, liberate the territory and protect ourselves from IS attacks. The problem for us is that the IS group doesn’t care about the civilians’ lives. Their aim is to destroy us at any price.”

“Protecting one civilian is more important than killing ten extremists – this is what my commander told me,” al-Obaidi quotes his orders. “So we are moving very slowly, so as not to harm civilians, but this also means we are losing men daily.”

A few days ago al-Obeidi’s unit was fighting in the Qadisiyah area of Mosul when they were shelled by IS fighters. His unit ended up taking civilians injured in the shelling out of the area; he says the extremists were bombing the area with no regard at all for non-combatants.

In Mosul, “every road is a battlefront,” al-Obeidi told NIQASH. “In some places, we are not more than 50 meters away from the extremists. We use bulldozers to build barricades at the end of each street, then we fight behind them. Then we remove them and build new ones on the next street,” he explained the painstaking process to push the IS group out of one of Iraq’s largest cities.

The counter-terrorism forces are still worried about members of the IS group, or IS loyalists, among the civilians, who might attack them. Many of the civilian males still haven’t shaved off the long beards they were all forced to grow because of the IS group’s religious rules and the security forces get worried that some of these men may actually be members of the IS group, or loyal to them.

The other big problem is the number of booby trapped vehicles. These are exploded once the anti-extremist troops are on a street. The explosion leaves them trapped on the street, which is blocked at both ends, for hours, until they can get support from other troops.

 

Counter-terrorism troops meet with locals in eastern Mosul last week.

 

In the Zohour neighbourhood of Mosul, which is next to Qadisiyah, another soldier, Qusay Salam, told NIQASH about what happens in the parts of Mosul that the IS group has been pushed out of.

His unit had spent three days fighting to control the neighbourhood and when they were finally certain that the IS fighters were gone, and that booby traps had been cleared, they built a barricade made of rubble and cars at one end of the street. This meant that cars driven by suicide bombers wouldn’t be able to attack them.

After several hours, they could hear people congregating on the other side of barricade: Men, women and children were running toward the soldiers, looking frightened to death, he says.

Salam says this is what makes the fighting in Mosul so difficult too. It is hard for the anti-extremist forces to get accurate information as to where the IS fighters are, at any given time. They try and collect information from the civilians about where the IS fighters might be hiding. “In some cases, we get valuable information,” Salam says. “In other cases, they won’t tell us anything because they are afraid that the IS group will return and kill them for collaborating with the security forces.”

On one of the days in this neighbourhood, Salam says his commander knocked at the door of one of the houses.

“A white flag came out of the window and a man started shouting,” Salam recounts. “He was calling out: We are innocent people. Please, I have children.”

When the home owner was reassured that it was the Iraqi army outside his home, he opened the door, saluted them and started to cry.

“He told us these were his tears of happiness,” Salam says. “His wife prepared tea for us and we spent the night in his home. We left at dawn and said goodbye to the family. He told us: May God bless you and protect you. And he begged us to save their lives and expel the criminals from his city.”  


source: Niqash

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In Mosul, Extremists Prepare For Battle, Building Walls, Tunnels, Trenches

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In Mosul, members of the extremist group that control the city, known as the Islamic State, know full well that they can expect the city to be attacked by those who oppose them soon. Rumour has it the fight for Mosul, the extremists’ last large stronghold in Iraq, could begin as soon as October. As a result, they are preparing, night and day, to try and defend the city they have controlled for over two years now. Residents say that for the past two weeks, the noise from large vehicles and construction equipment hasn’t stopped.

“Trucks owned by the Mosul city council have been moving large concrete barriers to the outskirts of the city,” one local, who could not be named for security reasons, told NIQASH. “Large cranes are unloading these and they are being arranged in a similar way to how the Iraqi military used to arrange them, when they controlled Mosul.”

Eyewitnesses in the city confirm that at the southern end of the city, around the neighbourhoods of Mamoun, Tal al-Rumman and Mansour, members of the extremist group have completed a three-meter-high wall. Further ahead is the town of Qayyarah, out of which the Islamic State, or IS, group was pushed out of recently.

War is coming and the survival of the Caliphate will depend on the steadfastness of Mosul, the preacher said.

Other locals confirmed that there is a similar wall at the eastern end of the city near the neighbourhoods of Somar, Dumez and Falastin as well as in the Kokajli and Shamali areas, where pre-fab buildings are located, in order to prevent the Iraqi Kurdish military from laying siege to that part of the city.

However, because Mosul is so large – it’s known as Iraq’s second city after Baghdad, and was home to over 2 million people – there is no way to construct a complete wall around the city. That’s why they’re only building walls in areas near the main entrances to the city and in parts of the city where they expect their enemies to attack from.

Locals say all this is somewhat ironic. When the IS group first entered the city in mid-2014 they boasted about the fact that they were removing all the concrete barriers that the Iraqi army had placed around Mosul because they were no longer needed. Security would prevail under their rule, they claimed.

At the same time as the barriers are being moved, there has also been a major campaign to convince locals of the IS group’s strength and, one imagines, keep citizens on side.

“War is coming and the survival of the Caliphate will depend on the steadfastness of Mosul in confronting the infidels,” one young man, a preacher in his 30s, told all of those praying in the Umar ibn al-Khattab mosque in Mosul’s Nahrawan neighbourhood recently. “Did you hear about the battle fought by Muslims, led by the Prophet Mohammed, in 627AD?” he asked worshippers. “Do you know how they won that battle? The people followed their leader and they did not betray him. That is why the sons of Mosul should be patient and why they should tolerate hunger, thirst and fear. They should support the Caliphate and prevent the infidels from entering the city!”

The battle the preacher was talking about was known as the Battle of al-Khandaq, or the Ditch (or Trench) in English. During this fight Mohammed and his supporters dug a ditch around the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia and stayed inside while thousands of enemies laid siege outside. Members of the IS group have been using the same comparison online, on social media.

The walls that the IS group is building in Mosul also include a trench, measuring two meters in depth and width, on one side of the concrete barriers. This trench has already been completed in the eastern and northern parts of the city; extremists used municipal roadworks vehicles to dig the pits.

In the past the IS group had tried to dig trenches around 10 kilometres away from the city’s borders but they were stopped after repeated air strikes by planes belonging to the international anti-IS coalition destroyed many of their vehicles.

Just like the walls, the new trenches do not surround the whole city. The main aim appears to be to prevent the entry of military vehicles into the city.

The trenches are also supposedly connected to a network of secret tunnels the IS group is building in the city. This is being done in case the extremist organization is forced to fight a guerrilla war in the city; the city’s high population density – there are currently an estimated 1.5 million residents still here – will also be used in this fighting.

In the end though, it is clear to everyone – even those living in Mosul – that in this day and age, whoever controls the airspace, controls the battle. Fences and trenches won’t be able to stop armed forces from entering the city if they have air support and the best that the IS group’s plan could achieve is to extend their stay in the city by weeks, or possibly months, if they are lucky.

That’s why Mosul locals will be looking toward their southern suburbs when the time comes. IS members are expected to escape in that direction and head to safe houses in Syria, as they did in previous fighting in Fallujah and Tikrit.


source: Niqash

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In Mosul, Extremists Prepare For Battle, Building Walls, Tunnels, Trenches

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In Mosul, members of the extremist group that control the city, known as the Islamic State, know full well that they can expect the city to be attacked by those who oppose them soon. Rumour has it the fight for Mosul, the extremists’ last large stronghold in Iraq, could begin as soon as October. As a result, they are preparing, night and day, to try and defend the city they have controlled for over two years now. Residents say that for the past two weeks, the noise from large vehicles and construction equipment hasn’t stopped.

“Trucks owned by the Mosul city council have been moving large concrete barriers to the outskirts of the city,” one local, who could not be named for security reasons, told NIQASH. “Large cranes are unloading these and they are being arranged in a similar way to how the Iraqi military used to arrange them, when they controlled Mosul.”

Eyewitnesses in the city confirm that at the southern end of the city, around the neighbourhoods of Mamoun, Tal al-Rumman and Mansour, members of the extremist group have completed a three-meter-high wall. Further ahead is the town of Qayyarah, out of which the Islamic State, or IS, group was pushed out of recently.

War is coming and the survival of the Caliphate will depend on the steadfastness of Mosul, the preacher said.

Other locals confirmed that there is a similar wall at the eastern end of the city near the neighbourhoods of Somar, Dumez and Falastin as well as in the Kokajli and Shamali areas, where pre-fab buildings are located, in order to prevent the Iraqi Kurdish military from laying siege to that part of the city.

However, because Mosul is so large – it’s known as Iraq’s second city after Baghdad, and was home to over 2 million people – there is no way to construct a complete wall around the city. That’s why they’re only building walls in areas near the main entrances to the city and in parts of the city where they expect their enemies to attack from.

Locals say all this is somewhat ironic. When the IS group first entered the city in mid-2014 they boasted about the fact that they were removing all the concrete barriers that the Iraqi army had placed around Mosul because they were no longer needed. Security would prevail under their rule, they claimed.

At the same time as the barriers are being moved, there has also been a major campaign to convince locals of the IS group’s strength and, one imagines, keep citizens on side.

“War is coming and the survival of the Caliphate will depend on the steadfastness of Mosul in confronting the infidels,” one young man, a preacher in his 30s, told all of those praying in the Umar ibn al-Khattab mosque in Mosul’s Nahrawan neighbourhood recently. “Did you hear about the battle fought by Muslims, led by the Prophet Mohammed, in 627AD?” he asked worshippers. “Do you know how they won that battle? The people followed their leader and they did not betray him. That is why the sons of Mosul should be patient and why they should tolerate hunger, thirst and fear. They should support the Caliphate and prevent the infidels from entering the city!”

The battle the preacher was talking about was known as the Battle of al-Khandaq, or the Ditch (or Trench) in English. During this fight Mohammed and his supporters dug a ditch around the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia and stayed inside while thousands of enemies laid siege outside. Members of the IS group have been using the same comparison online, on social media.

The walls that the IS group is building in Mosul also include a trench, measuring two meters in depth and width, on one side of the concrete barriers. This trench has already been completed in the eastern and northern parts of the city; extremists used municipal roadworks vehicles to dig the pits.

In the past the IS group had tried to dig trenches around 10 kilometres away from the city’s borders but they were stopped after repeated air strikes by planes belonging to the international anti-IS coalition destroyed many of their vehicles.

Just like the walls, the new trenches do not surround the whole city. The main aim appears to be to prevent the entry of military vehicles into the city.

The trenches are also supposedly connected to a network of secret tunnels the IS group is building in the city. This is being done in case the extremist organization is forced to fight a guerrilla war in the city; the city’s high population density – there are currently an estimated 1.5 million residents still here – will also be used in this fighting.

In the end though, it is clear to everyone – even those living in Mosul – that in this day and age, whoever controls the airspace, controls the battle. Fences and trenches won’t be able to stop armed forces from entering the city if they have air support and the best that the IS group’s plan could achieve is to extend their stay in the city by weeks, or possibly months, if they are lucky.

That’s why Mosul locals will be looking toward their southern suburbs when the time comes. IS members are expected to escape in that direction and head to safe houses in Syria, as they did in previous fighting in Fallujah and Tikrit.


source: Niqash

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In Mosul, Extremists Lament Damage, Then Sell Scrap To Highest Bidder

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Over the past two years Iraq’s second city has been “eroded”. Bit by bit, Mosul’s largest buildings, industrial plants and other state facilities are being chipped away, either through bombing by the international coalition that has pledged to fight the extremist group known as the Islamic State, that controls this city; or because the extremist group itself is looting the buildings, selling machinery and fittings and often, taking it to Syria.

Speaking to locals by phone, NIQASH counted around 120 major buildings that have either been destroyed or rendered useless by bombing and looting. This figure doesn’t take into account private properties and residences.

When a site is bombed, IS members remove the bodies of their fighters and leave only civilian corpses, before filming the damage.

“They came to the city from the desert and I fear they won’t leave until they’ve turned our city into a desert,” a local engineer, Ahmad al-Badrani*, who worked in construction here for many years, told NIQASH. “As soon as they arrived members of the Islamic State started to destroy the buildings they considered to be symbols of the Iraqi state – such as the oldest police station in Mosul. The station became a grocery market while the second biggest compound in Mosul – the Badush prison –  was bombed, then the rubble was auctioned off.”

The most important factories in Mosul – those producing cement, textiles, clothing, sugar and flour – have been destroyed. Seventeen buildings belonging to the local education department, including university buildings, are also gone. More than 25 military and security-related offices and sites no longer exist and nor do the six biggest banks in Mosul, including the Central Bank. Four telecommunications centres and four bridges on main roads outside the city have also been destroyed.

The bulk of this destruction has been caused by airstrikes by the international coalition. The fact that the Islamic State, or IS, group controls the city makes it a clear target for coalition bombing.

One of the most recent facilities to be destroyed was the Mishraq sulphur plant, formerly run by the state.

Saeed al-Taie, who now lives in Baghdad, used to work there and recalls that the plant was built on one of the largest sulphur fields in the world and would produce more than a million tons of the material every year, most of which would then be exported to China. In June this year, al-Taie heard that the plant was hit by about 11 missiles.

 

IS fighters cleaning up the ruins of Mosul's Central Bank.

IS fighters cleaning up the ruins of Mosul’s Central Bank.

 

Even before that though, al-Taie says that the IS group looted the plant, taking machinery and other materials and sending it all to Syria.

At the moment the locals living in Mosul say that the IS group is using the ongoing airstrikes to try and incite hatred toward their opposition, the Iraqi government and the international coalition responsible for the air strikes. When a site is bombed, the extremists remove the bodies of all of their fighters and their vehicles and leave only civilian corpses, if there are some. They then film the destruction and the dead, and provide a voice over in which they lament the bombing of the valuable building and the unjust deaths of non-combatants.

In one of the IS group’s latest videos on social media, one of their members stands amid the ruins of the Badush cement plant. The fighter points at the destruction and says that no amount of shelling would ever induce the Islamic State to abandon its prophesied glory.

However, after the cameras are gone, representatives of the IS group sell off whatever they can at auction. Businessmen compete to buy valuable scrap and, although this is unconfirmed, locals suggest that many of those attending the auctions are Syrian. The deal is usually finalized at IS offices in the city.

“So many landmarks in Mosul have disappeared,” complains Abdul Hadi Aziz*, who still lives in the city. “And the merchants who buy scrap and other things from the destroyed buildings usually hire labourers to work there all day to collect whatever they can, especially iron.”

Aziz gives the example of the Mosul Teaching Hospital, which had had a total budget of around US$148 million and which was about three-quarters finished. Just like dozens of other state-owned buildings around Mosul, it now seems to have almost disappeared.

Most of the scrap is taken to Syria, Aziz believes.

As the effort to push the IS group out of Mosul appears to be gathering momentum, civilians in the city remain very worried. Even if they escape the fighting unscathed, they know that once the dust settles, their city will be a very different place. They also know that the Iraqi government doesn’t have enough money for reconstruction and that most of the funding assistance the government receives will go toward humanitarian aid.   

*Names of individuals still living in Mosul have been changed to protect them and their families

 

The Central Bank was bombed by coalition forces in mid-February 2016.

The Central Bank was bombed by coalition forces in mid-February 2016.

 


source: Niqash

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In Mosul, Locals Wage Psychological Warfare Against ISIS

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As the extremist group known as the Islamic State looks increasingly unsteady inside Iraq, there are a growing number of acts of resistance against the group inside the northern city of Mosul, which has been the group’s stronghold in Iraq for over the past two years.

Evidence for this includes the number of times one sees the letter “M” written on the walls of schools, mosques and other buildings in the city. This letter was not a casual choice: It is the first letter of the Arabic word, muqawama, which means “resistance”. It is an important symbol for those living in the city who oppose the extremist group and all it stands for. Acts of actual physical resistance are still rare, mainly because the city is full of Islamic State members and fighters, many of whom are armed and who will not hesitate to punish those who oppose them.

Of course, the extremists do not stand idly by when this graffiti appears. They clean it from the walls and try to find those responsible.

The IS fighters then proceeded to decapitate the young men with their knives. But this was not what surprised the Iraqis who saw the video.

Local media has also responded to the graffiti, publishing stories about it, mostly gleaned from Iraqi social media users, who post pictures of the graffiti and boast about how the people of Mosul are trying to resist the Islamic State, or IS, group.

NIQASH was able to collect dozens of these kinds of stories and pictures too, including an “M” on the wall of the landmark Great Mosque of Al Nouri, which is where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State group, gave his famous speech in Mosul in July 2014.

The “M” is not the only way that locals are trying to resist the Islamic State group. Another example saw locals in the Dubbat neighbourhood in Mosul – an area where many army officers used to live – wake to find that somebody had placed an Iraqi flag atop an electricity pole during the night. The only flag that is allowed in Mosul is the black one belonging to the IS group. The extremists removed the flag immediately and burned it; they also arrested a number of locals, including some younger people and some retired army officers, and took them away, blindfolded, for questioning.

Everyone in Mosul knows the price of resistance – certain, and most likely cruel, death.

 

Exclusive video shot on Mosul’s streets, as locals go in search of “M” graffit.

 

On July 21, the IS group released a new seven-minute-long video that showed two of the extremists holding knives as well as two young Iraqi men in front of them. The extremists spoke in French and threatened France again as well as the other countries belonging to the international coalition that is fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They also congratulated Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the man who had killed over 80 in Nice, France, on July 14. They then proceeded to decapitate the young men with their knives. The whole gruesome spectacle was filmed in Mosul.

The cruelty did not surprise Iraqis. But what was surprising about the video was the fact that it contained an admission by the IS group that there is resistance to them inside Mosul. The two young men who were killed confessed to having drawn the “M” graffiti and also to having given information to the international coalition.

The IS group have been trying to isolate the people of Mosul from the rest of the world for some time now. In November 2014, the group banned communication by mobile phones (with varying degrees of success) and in February, they started to stop locals from leaving the city. Today there is no way of getting out of the city without using risky smuggling routes.

About a month ago IS fighters started to collect satellite television receivers. Members of the group drive around the city with loudspeakers, calling out to households to hand over their satellite dishes. The receivers will be taken to the outskirts of the city and destroyed, the IS members say.

Locals say they will need around another month to collect all of the receivers in the city. As one local man told NIQASH, “I asked them if I could keep the satellite receiver because my kids like the cartoons but they said to me, ‘aren’t you ashamed of yourself? The satellite is forbidden. Why would you keep a demon in your house?’.”

As of July 24, the IS group has issued a decree saying that the Internet is also to be banned in Mosul. Again it’s hard to say how successful they will be with this ban.

Although the extremist group say they are banning contact with the outside world, including cartoons and news shows, for religious reasons, it seems clear that it has more to do with preventing contact with external organisations that might attack the city and to prevent locals and their own fighters from hearing about any battle field successes against the Islamic State group and any resistance internally. For example, Iraqi pro-government forces have recently advanced in the nearby Qayyarah district, which is just under 70 kilometres out of Mosul.

Additionally, Iraqi politicians often comment publicly about resistance against the IS group from within Mosul. In particular, they talk about the so-called Mosul Brigades, a secret resistance network that puts out statements threatening the IS group with death and promising revenge. The former governor of the province and former resident of the city, Atheel al-Nujaifi, has talked at length about how he thinks that the people of Mosul will liberate the city themselves as soon as they have the opportunity.

However as one resident of the city, who must remain anonymous for security reasons, told NIQASH in a phone call, the resistance in Mosul is mostly psychological at the moment, involving such things as the “M” graffiti and social media. Actual physical attacks on the IS group and its members remain limited and don’t pose a major threat to the extremist organisation that still has the city under tight control.

 

IS members remove satellite dishes from Mosul homes.


source: Niqash

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