Is­lamic State ex­e­cutes 58 in Mo­sul sus­pected of plot­ting to switch sides

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - AHMED RASHEED

BAGH­DAD: Is­lamic State (IS) has crushed a re­bel­lion plot in Mo­sul, led by one of the group’s com­man­ders who aimed to switch sides and help de­liver the caliphate’s Iraqi cap­i­tal to gov­ern­ment forces, say res­i­dents and Iraqi se­cu­rity of­fi­cials.

IS ex­e­cuted 58 peo­ple sus­pected of tak­ing part in the plot af­ter it was un­cov­ered last week. Res­i­dents, speak­ing from some of the few lo­ca­tions in the city that have phone ser­vice, said the plot­ters had been killed by drown­ing and their bod­ies buried in a mass grave in a waste­land on the out­skirts of the city.

Among them was a lo­cal aide of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, who led the plot­ters, ac­cord­ing to match­ing ac­counts given by res­i­dents to Hisham al-Hashimi, an ex­pert on IS af­fairs that ad­vises the gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad.

The aim of the plot­ters was to un­der­mine Is­lamic State’s de­fence of Mo­sul in the com­ing fight, ex­pected to be the big­gest bat­tle in Iraq since the 2003 US-led in­va­sion.

Mo­sul is the last ma­jor strong­hold of Is­lamic State in Iraq. With a pre­war pop­u­la­tion of around 2 mil­lion, it is at least five times the size of any other city IS has con­trolled.

Iraqi of­fi­cials say a mas­sive ground as­sault could be­gin this month, backed by US air power, Kur­dish se­cu­rity forces and Shi’ite and Sunni ir­reg­u­lar units.

A suc­cess­ful of­fen­sive would ef­fec­tively de­stroy the Iraqi half of the caliphate that the group de­clared when it swept through north­ern Iraq in 2014. But the UN says it could also cre­ate the big­gest hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in the world, in a worst case sce­nario up­root­ing 1 mil­lion peo­ple.

Is­lamic State fight­ers are dug in to de­fend the city and have a his­tory of us­ing civil­ians as hu­man shields when de­fend­ing ter­ri­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to Hashimi, the dis­si­dents were ar­rested af­ter one of them was caught with a mes­sage on his phone men­tion­ing a trans­fer of weapons. He con­fessed dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion that the weapons were to be used in a re­bel­lion to sup­port the Iraqi army. – Reuters

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