Spo­radic clashes in Mo­sul af­ter vic­tory dec­la­ra­tion

Iraqi forces, US-led coali­tion fail to adapt their tac­tics

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Spo­radic clashes erupted in Mo­sul yes­ter­day, a day af­ter Iraq’s prime min­is­ter de­clared “to­tal vic­tory” over the Is­lamic State group, with sev­eral airstrikes hit­ting the Old City neigh­bor­hood that was the scene of the fierce bat­tle’s fi­nal days. Plumes of smoke rose into the air as IS mor­tar shells landed near Iraqi po­si­tions and heavy gun­fire could be heard on the western edge of the Old City. At times heavy, the clashes un­der­scored the dan­gers still posed by the mil­i­tants af­ter Iraqi forces an­nounced they re­took full con­trol of Mo­sul, the coun­try’s sec­ond­largest city, three years af­ter it was seized by ex­trem­ists bent on build­ing a global caliphate.

Mean­while, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional warned in a re­port re­leased yes­ter­day that the con­flict in Mo­sul has cre­ated a “civil­ian catas­tro­phe,” with the ex­trem­ists car­ry­ing out forced dis­place­ment, sum­mary killings and us­ing civil­ians as hu­man shields. The re­port also de­tailed vi­o­la­tions by Iraqi forces and the US-led coali­tion. “The scale and grav­ity of the loss of civil­ian lives dur­ing the mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion to re­take Mo­sul must im­me­di­ately be pub­licly ac­knowl­edged at the high­est lev­els of govern­ment in Iraq and states that are part of the US-led coali­tion,” said Lynn Maalouf, the re­search di­rec­tor for Mideast at Amnesty.

The re­port, which cov­ers the first five months of this year, noted how IS fight­ers moved civil­ians with them around the city, pre­vent­ing them from es­cap­ing, cre­at­ing bat­tle spa­ces with dense civil­ian pop­u­la­tions while “Iraqi forces and the US-led coali­tion failed to adapt their tac­tics.” The Iraqi forces and the US-led coali­tion “con­tin­ued to use im­pre­cise, ex­plo­sive weapons with wide area ef­fects in densely pop­u­lated ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments,” Amnesty stated, adding that some vi­o­la­tions may con­sti­tute war crimes.

On Mon­day evening, Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi came to Mo­sul for the sec­ond day in a row to de­clare “to­tal vic­tory,” flanked by his se­nior mil­i­tary lead­er­ship at a small base on the edge of the Old City. But he also al­luded to the bru­tal­ity of the con­flict, say­ing the tri­umph had been achieved “by the blood of our mar­tyrs.” In Geneva, the UN hu­man rights chief urged Iraq’s govern­ment to en­sure that hu­man rights will be re­spected in post-IS Mo­sul.

Daily hor­rors

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hus­sein de­scribed Mo­sul’s fall as the “turn­ing point” in the con­flict against IS, but warned the group con­tin­ues to sub­ject peo­ple to “daily hor­rors” in its re­main­ing strongholds of Tal Afar, west of Mo­sul, and Haw­i­jah, north of Bagh­dad. “Horrific though the crimes of ISIS are, there is no place for vengeance,” said Zeid, who is a Jor­da­nian prince, us­ing an al­ter­na­tive acro­nym for the Is­lamic State group. He cited al­le­ga­tions of threats of col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment and forced evic­tions in Mo­sul by Iraqi se­cu­rity forces and their al­lies. He also cited three years of rights vi­o­la­tions dur­ing IS’ con­trol of Mo­sul, in­clud­ing abuses like sex­ual slav­ery of women and girls that “have left deep scars on Iraqi so­ci­ety.”

In Bagh­dad, Shi­ite politi­cian Karim al-Nouri warned that de­feat­ing IS in Mo­sul doesn’t mean that “ter­ror­ism” is fin­ished and urged the govern­ment to re­view its poli­cies for deal­ing with Sunni ar­eas of the coun­try to “avoid pre­vi­ous mis­takes that led to the emer­gence” of IS. The govern­ment needs to work on “re­mov­ing fears of marginal­iza­tion and ter­ror­ism af­fil­i­a­tion in Sunni ar­eas,” said al-Nouri, a se­nior mem­ber of Badr Or­ga­ni­za­tion. He said he be­lieves the Iraqi se­cu­rity forces should stay in Mo­sul un­til it is fully se­cure, be­fore hand­ing over to lo­cal forces. Law­maker In­ti­sar al-Jabouri from Nin­eveh prov­ince, where Mo­sul is the cap­i­tal, said that up­root­ing IS’ “ex­trem­ism ide­ol­ogy” was key for a peace­ful fu­ture in Mo­sul, which reeled un­der the ex­trem­ists’ harsh rule for three years.

She urged Bagh­dad to in­vest in “good re­la­tions” be­tween the res­i­dents and the se­cu­rity forces and take all “nec­es­sary mea­sures to pre­vent ter­ror­ism groups from re­turn­ing to Mo­sul.” While Mo­sul fell to the Is­lamic State group in a mat­ter of days in 2014, the cam­paign to re­take the city, which be­gan last Oc­to­ber, has lasted nearly nine months. For more than two years be­fore the op­er­a­tion started, Iraqi forces backed by coali­tion airstrikes slowly clawed back ter­ri­tory from IS else­where in Iraq, and tens of thou­sands of Iraqi troops went through a mas­sive coali­tion train­ing pro­gram.

Caliphate

The IS de­feat in Mo­sul dealt a huge blow to the group’s so-called Is­lamic “caliphate” - ter­ri­tory that the mil­i­tants seized, span­ning large swaths of both Iraq and Syria - but also killed thou­sands, left en­tire neigh­bor­hoods in ru­ins and dis­placed nearly 900,000 from their homes. Thou­sands of civil­ians are es­ti­mated to have been killed in the fight for the city, ac­cord­ing to the pro­vin­cial coun­cil of Nin­eveh, where Mo­sul is the cap­i­tal - a toll that does not in­clude those still be­lieved buried un­der col­lapsed build­ings. Iraq’s mil­i­tary does not re­lease of­fi­cial ca­su­alty num­bers for sol­diers killed in com­bat.

A state­ment late Mon­day from IS claimed its fight­ers were still at­tack­ing Iraqi sol­diers in the alMay­dan area of Mo­sul’s Old City, pur­port­edly killing and wound­ing many and seiz­ing weapons and am­mu­ni­tion. “The sol­diers of the caliphate in Mo­sul con­tinue to ac­com­plish epics un­til they achieve ei­ther vic­tory or mar­tyr­dom,” it said. Also Mon­day, the United Na­tions said that of the more than 897,000 peo­ple dis­placed from Mo­sul, thou­sands will prob­a­bly not be able to re­turn be­cause of “ex­ten­sive dam­age caused dur­ing the con­flict.”

“Make no mis­take, this vic­tory alone does not elim­i­nate ISIS, and there’s still a tough fight ahead,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US com­man­der in Iraq said in a recorded video from Bagh­dad fol­low­ing al-Abadi’s state­ment. ISIS is an­other acro­nym for IS, also re­ferred to as Daesh, an Ara­bic name. “The coali­tion will con­tinue to sup­port our Iraqi partners un­til ISIS is de­feated in Iraq,” Townsend added, call­ing on Iraqis to unite and pre­vent a re­turn of the con­di­tions that al­lowed the ex­trem­ists’ rise more than three years ago.—AP

MO­SUL: Airstrikes tar­get Is­lamic State po­si­tions on the edge of the Old City a day af­ter Iraq’s prime min­is­ter de­clared to­tal vic­tory in Mo­sul, Iraq.—AP

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