IS hits back in Mo­sul Is­lamic State un­leash fe­male sui­cide bombers

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Iraqi forces are fac­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult fight­ing and a ris­ing num­ber of sui­cide bomb­ings in the fi­nal stages of the bat­tle for Mo­sul, se­nior com­man­ders said yes­ter­day. Fol­low­ing re­cent sui­cide bomb­ings by two girls, se­cu­rity forces in the Old City were seen or­der­ing civil­ians to re­move some of their cloth­ing be­fore ap­proach­ing to guard against the threat. More than eight months since the start of the op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul from the Is­lamic State group, the ji­hadists have gone from fully con­trol­ling the city to hold­ing a lim­ited area on its western side, but re­sis­tance is still tough. “The fight­ing is be­com­ing harder ev­ery day be­cause of the na­ture of the Old City,” Staff Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ab­dulghani Al-As­sadi, a com­man­der in the elite Counter-Ter­ror­ism Ser­vice (CTS), said of the area of nar­row streets and closely spaced build­ings where the end of the bat­tle for Mo­sul is un­fold­ing. Iraqi forces have been clos­ing in on the Old City in west Mo­sul for months, but the ter­rain com­bined with a large civil­ian pop­u­la­tion has made for an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult fight. The same con­di­tions that aid ji­hadist de­fenses also serve to shield Iraqi forces from snipers, As­sadi said, and “our losses are not to the level that would pre­vent us from ad­vanc­ing.”

Staff Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Sami al-Aridhi, an­other top CTS com­man­der, said that IS has in­creased the num­ber of sui­cide at­tacks it is car­ry­ing out. “The en­emy has been us­ing sui­cide bombers, es­pe­cially women, for the past three days in some of the neigh­bor­hoods. Be­fore that, they were us­ing snipers and bombs more,” Aridhi said. “There are still at least 200 fighters from the (IS) or­ga­ni­za­tion” in Mo­sul, most of them for­eign­ers, he said. “The bat­tle will end in five days to a week,” Aridhi said. CTS forces in the Old City or­dered flee­ing civil­ians to re­move some ar­ti­cles of cloth­ing be­fore ap­proach­ing on Mon­day in an ef­fort to de­tect sui­cide bombers.

Men were told to re­move their shirts, while women had to take off veils cov­er­ing their faces and hair, and flow­ing abaya robes. The mea­sure fol­lowed two re­cent sui­cide bomb­ings-one by a 14-year-old girl and an­other by a 12-year-old that killed three mem­bers of CTS, sol­diers said.

Dis­pute over vic­tory

Civil­ians flee­ing the fight­ing are re­ceiv­ing treat­ment at a makeshift clinic in Mo­sul. “Peo­ple come from the Old City of Mo­sul, where fierce fight­ing is tak­ing place. They’re run­ning away from (IS), run­ning away from death, hunger and fear,” said Nazar Salih, a doctor at the clinic. Sha­hed Omar, a 20-year-old who fled the Old City, pointed to two chil­dren at the clinic.

“This one’s fa­ther was killed, and that girl there, her fa­ther was killed as well,” Omar said. Se­cu­rity forces have made sig­nif­i­cant progress since launch­ing a re­newed as­sault on the Old City on June 18. But the im­pend­ing end of the bat­tle has given rise to the lat­est round of in­ter-ser­vice ri­valry over who gets to de­clare it over. A state­ment at­trib­uted to the fed­eral po­lice chief cir­cu­lated on Sun­day, fet­ing “their vic­tory... which was achieved in the ter­ri­tory of Mo­sul,” while po­lice forces in the city cel­e­brated with a band, flags and dancing.

But po­lice com­man­der Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Raed Shakir Jaw­dat later said that while the mission of the fed­eral po­lice was over, other forces were still fight­ing and an an­nounce­ment of vic­tory would be made later by the Iraqi pre­mier. Iraq’s Joint Oper­a­tions Com­mand yes­ter­day said that the fed­eral po­lice were still fight­ing and had not cap­tured all of their ob­jec­tives. “Fed­eral po­lice forces con­tinue to fight fierce bat­tles... on the south­ern front and are ad­vanc­ing to­ward their tar­gets,” the JOC said.

IS over­ran large ar­eas north and west of Bagh­dad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by USled coali­tion air strikes have since re­gained much of the ter­ri­tory they lost. The re­cap­ture of Mo­sul will not how­ever mark the end of the war against IS. The ji­hadist group holds ter­ri­tory else­where in Iraq as well as in neigh­bor­ing Syria, and has been able to carry out at­tacks in gov­ern­ment-held ar­eas. High­light­ing the ma­jor se­cu­rity chal­lenges Iraq will face af­ter Mo­sul, a sui­cide bomber at­tacked a camp for dis­placed peo­ple west of Bagh­dad on Sun­day, killing 14 peo­ple and wound­ing 13, a po­lice ma­jor and a doctor said. —AFP

MO­SUL: A woman screams while flee­ing with her fam­ily through a de­stroyed al­ley, as Iraqi Spe­cial Forces con­tinue their ad­vance against Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, in the Old City of Mo­sul. — AP

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