Cru­ci­fix­ions and vice pa­trols show Is­lamic State main­tains Mo­sul grip Five cru­ci­fied bod­ies hung up at road junc­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Is­lamic State mil­i­tants fight­ing to hold on to their Mo­sul strong­hold have dis­played the cru­ci­fied bod­ies of five peo­ple they said gave in­for­ma­tion to “the en­emy”, and are back on the city streets polic­ing the length of men’s beards, residents say The five bod­ies were put on dis­play at a road junc­tion, a clear mes­sage to the city’s re­main­ing 1.5 mil­lion residents that the ul­tra-hard­line Is­lamists are still in charge, de­spite los­ing ter­ri­tory to the east of the city. Thou­sands of Is­lamic State fighters have run Mo­sul, the largest city un­der their con­trol in Iraq and neigh­bor­ing Syria, since they con­quered large parts of north­ern Iraq in 2014.

They are now bat­tling a 100,000-strong coali­tion in­clud­ing Iraqi troops, se­cu­rity forces, Kur­dish pesh­merga and mainly Shi­ite para­mil­i­tary groups, which has al­most sur­rounded the city and has bro­ken into east­ern neigh­bor­hoods. Residents con­tacted by tele­phone late on Tues­day said many parts of the city were calmer than they had been for days, al­low­ing peo­ple to ven­ture out to seek food, even in ar­eas which have seen heavy fight­ing over the last week. “I went out in my car for the first time since the start of the clashes in the east­ern dis­tricts,” said one Mo­sul res­i­dent. “I saw some of the Hisba el­e­ments of Daesh (Is­lamic State) check­ing peo­ple’s beards and clothes and look­ing for smok­ers”.

Is­lamic State’s Hisba force is a moral­ity po­lice unit which im­poses the Sunni ji­hadists’ in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lamic be­hav­iour. It for­bids smok­ing, says women should be veiled and wear gloves, and bans men from Western-style dress in­clud­ing jeans and lo­gos. Hisba units pa­trol the city in spe­cially marked ve­hi­cles. “It looks like they want to prove their pres­ence af­ter they dis­ap­peared for the last 10 days, es­pe­cially on the east­ern bank,” the res­i­dent said. Mo­sul is di­vided into two halves by the Ti­gris river run­ning through its cen­tre. The east­ern half, where elite Iraqi troops have bro­ken through Is­lamic State de­fenses, has a more mixed pop­u­la­tion than the western, over­whelm­ingly Sunni Arab side, where Is­lamic State fighters are be­lieved to be strong­est.

The mil­i­tants are putting up a fierce de­fense af­ter their leader, Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, told them in a speech last week to re­main loyal to their com­man­ders and not to re­treat in the “to­tal war” with their en­e­mies. Iraqi mil­i­tary of­fi­cials say they have sources in­side the city, help­ing them iden­tify Is­lamic State po­si­tions for tar­get­ing by the US-led air coali­tion sup­port­ing the cam­paign, which is also backed by US troops on the ground. The grue­some pub­lic dis­play of the bod­ies in east Mo­sul ap­peared to be a warn­ing against other po­ten­tial in­form­ers. “I saw five corpses of young men which had been cru­ci­fied at a road junc­tion in east Mo­sul,” not far from dis­tricts which had seen heavy fight­ing, said an­other res­i­dent.

“The Daesh peo­ple hung the bod­ies out and said that these were agents pass­ing news to the in­fi­del forces and apos­tates,” he said re­fer­ring to the Western al­lies back­ing the cam­paign and the Shi’ite-led govern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al-Abadi. In an­other sign of a clam­p­down on con­tact with the out­side world, one re­tired po­lice­man said Is­lamic State of­fi­cials were try­ing to in­spect SIM cards to check on all com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “I went to get my pen­sion as usual, but the man at the of­fice re­fused to give it to me un­less I handed over my SIM card,” the 65-year-old man, who gave his name as Abu Ali, said. “These are the in­struc­tions from Daesh,” the man told him.

Many residents close to the fight­ing have said the scale of the clashes has been ter­ri­fy­ing, with the sound of gun­fire, mor­tar bom­bard­ments and air strikes echo­ing through the streets. In the Zuhour district, still con­trolled by Is­lamic State on Mo­sul’s east­ern bank, wit­nesses said that cars car­ry­ing mor­tars roamed the streets on Tues­day, but were not seen be­ing fired - un­like in the pre­vi­ous two days. The rel­a­tive quiet may re­flect a re­duc­tion in fight­ing since Iraq’s spe­cial forces first broke into east­ern Mo­sul a week ago. They faced fierce re­sis­tance, and have not sought to any ma­jor ad­vance since then. One wit­ness said traf­fic had al­most re­turned to nor­mal in most parts of east­ern Mo­sul and mar­kets were op­er­at­ing, al­beit not as busy as be­fore the start of mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions.— Reuters

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