Iraq po­lice bat­tle sui­cide bombers

Vil­lage high­lighted IS dream of a caliphate

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Iraqi fed­eral po­lice­men stood over the corpse of an Is­lamic State sui­cide bomber cov­ered by a cur­tain. The chain at­tached to his an­kle was tied to a car that had dragged him through streets, they said, that were once part of a self­pro­claimed ji­hadist caliphate. Nearby po­lice­men fired AK-47 as­sault ri­fles in the air to mark their vic­tory in Shura, one of dozens of vil­lages cap­tured as Iraqi forces press on with an of­fen­sive to­wards the nearby city of Mo­sul, the mil­i­tants’ main strong­hold in the coun­try. But cel­e­bra­tions were mixed with cu­rios­ity and ap­pre­hen­sion as se­cu­rity forces searched for clues on what makes the world’s most vi­o­lent and feared Is­lamist mil­i­tant group tick.

“I shot two of the sui­cide bombers,” said Ali Hashim. “One of them was run­ning right at me. I could see him hold­ing a cord up near his head as he ran. I shot him in time.” Fed­eral po­lice­men are part of the forces press­ing ahead with an of­fen­sive to re­cap­ture Mo­sul from Is­lamic State, in what will likely be the big­gest bat­tle in Iraq since a US-led in­va­sion top­pled Sad­dam Hus­sein in 2003 and un­leashed tur­moil. Even if Is­lamic State loses, Iraq faces the daunt­ing chal­lenge of mak­ing sure the as­sault on the pre­dom­i­nantly Sunni Mus­lim city does not in­flame sec­tar­ian ten­sions.

The top com­man­der in the Shura area, Staff Ma­jor Hay­man Ab­bas, was cau­tiously op­ti­mistic about seiz­ing more vil­lages and towns, even af­ter his men killed seven sui­cide bombers in two days. “My big­gest worry is what I call the kamikaze sui­cide bomber. This is some­one who is very ef­fi­cient at shoot­ing a lot of peo­ple dur­ing a bat­tle and then blows him­self up,” he said. Three sui­cide bombers lay in the cen­tre of the vil­lage, their corpses burned to a deep black colour. One was sprawled out on a side­walk, wear­ing the type of clothes that ji­hadists wear in Pak­istan or Afghanistan.

An­other was layed out in a sand lot. Dozens of bul­let cas­ings were scat­tered across the area. For­eign fight­ers who oc­cu­pied the town in­cluded Ye­me­nis and Saudis, se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers said. Chech­nyan mil­i­tants also con­trolled the vil­lage, some of the most feared Is­lamic State mem­bers be­cause they are seen as the most fa­natic and ex­pe­ri­enced. One po­lice of­fi­cer saved a pho­to­graph he took of an of­fi­cial Is­lamic State doc­u­ment grant­ing a Chech­nyan mil­i­tant leave for three days.

Is­lamic State’s ini­tial ap­peal was its abil­ity to func­tion as a state that pro­vided bet­ter ser­vices than Arab gov­ern­ments widely seen as cor­rupt. So the group did its best in places like Shura to demon­strate that it is run­ning a self-suf­fi­cient caliphate. On a wall in the vil­lage is a huge sign urg­ing peo­ple to use a com­plaint line to re­port any­one who is out of or­der.

“Dial land­line 731007,” said the sign, be­side an­other one that states Is­lamic State war­riors fight for the peo­ple. Po­lice­men also pointed to doc­u­ments that re­quire peo­ple to switch their Iraqi iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards to Is­lamic State ones. A news­let­ter that had been dis­trib­uted presents strict guide­lines on beard length, and it also urges Mus­lims to give to char­i­ties. One po­lice of­fi­cer, Alaa Hus­sein, said civil­ians who fled pro­vided po­lice­men with in­for­ma­tion about the mil­i­tants that led to their de­feat. Nev­er­the­less, he was still edgy.

“Some of them may still be hid­ing in build­ings,” he said on the edge of the vil­lage, stand­ing near a row of How­itzer ar­tillery pieces on the desert floor. In a town about an hour away by car, a plain­clothes po­lice­man was also tak­ing no chances. He stood an inch from a man’s face and then slapped him with both hands, as an oil fire started by re­treat­ing Is­lamic State mil­i­tants filled the sky with thick, dark smoke. The man, in his 20s, pleaded for mercy and pro­claimed his in­no­cence as he was asked if his father is a mem­ber of Is­lamic State or whether he is one of its lo­cal lead­ers. “He killed in­no­cent peo­ple. He shot them,” the in­ter­roga­tor told Reuters. The man was led away by sol­diers. — Reuters

MO­SUL: An in­jured Iraqi Counter Ter­ror­ism Sec­tion (CTS) mem­ber re­ceives med­i­cal treat­ment fol­low­ing clashes with Is­lamic State (IS) group ji­hadists near the vil­lage of Bazwaya, on the east­ern edges of Mo­sul yes­ter­day. — AFP

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