ISIS slows Iraqis’ Mo­sul push

Hun­dreds of civil­ians es­cape city, but many re­main trapped

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - SU­SAN­NAH GE­ORGE In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Qas­sim Ab­dulZahra of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

MO­SUL, Iraq — The Iraqi ad­vance into Mo­sul’s western half slowed Satur­day as com­bat turned to ur­ban war­fare and Iraqi forces met stiff re­sis­tance from the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group.

Hun­dreds of civil­ians poured out of Mo­sul on foot, but the vast ma­jor­ity of 750,000 es­ti­mated to still be in the city’s west re­mained trapped. Some de­scribed de­te­ri­o­rat­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian and se­cu­rity con­di­tions.

Spe­cial forces Lt. Gen. Ab­dul-Wa­hab al-Saadi said his troops were “mov­ing very slowly” and that Is­lamic State fight­ers were re­spond­ing with car bombs, sniper fire and dozens of armed drones.

The drones have caused few deaths but have in­flicted dozens of in­juries that have dis­rupted the pace of ground op­er­a­tions.

Sim­i­lar to the way op­er­a­tions in­side eastern Mo­sul un­folded, the Is­lamic State on Satur­day re­peat­edly brought Iraqi con­voys in western Mo­sul to a halt with teams of one or two men and a hand­ful of car bombs.

Al-Saadi said the Ma­mun neigh­bor­hood was par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult be­cause its streets are not or­ga­nized in a grid.

“The roads are ran­dom,” he said, which makes it more dif­fi­cult for troops to set up road­blocks to stop car bombs, a dif­fi­culty that fore­shad­ows ob­sta­cles Iraqi forces ex­pect to face in the nar­row al­ley­ways of western Mo­sul’s his­toric dis­trict.

But al- Saadi said he ex­pects the pace to in­crease af­ter Iraqi forces re­take ter­ri­tory and in­fra­struc­ture on Mo­sul’s south­west­ern edge — which will al­low them to shorten sup­ply lines and link up with forces in the city’s east.

Along the road be­side al-Saadi’s base of op­er­a­tions, hun­dreds of civil­ians flee­ing Mo­sul walked slowly past, many with sheep, cows and goats in tow. Nearly all of the hun­dreds who fled Satur­day trekked about 3 miles from the city’s edge to a small vil­lage that serves as a screen­ing cen­ter.

Dozens of fam­i­lies gath­ered against a crude cin­der-block wall at the screen­ing cen­ter south of Mo­sul. In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials at the site said that af­ter doc­u­ments were checked, fam­i­lies would ei­ther be moved into nearby aban­doned houses or to newly erected camps for the dis­placed.

Many of those flee­ing said they were from vil­lages out­side Mo­sul and had been forced to march to the city more than four months ago to serve as hu­man shields.

“We’ve been through ter­ri­ble times,” said Juri Fathi, a mother of six who was forced to live in a school in Mo­sul for three months. “I had to burn my chil­dren’s cloth­ing just for warmth.”

Fathi held her youngest child — a 4-month-old boy — in her arms as she spoke. She said he was born in an aban­doned home be­tween her home­town of Ha­mam

al-Alil and Mo­sul as she was be­ing led on the forced march by the Is­lamic State.

“I named him Mussab” — mean­ing “dif­fi­cult” — “for these tough days,” she said.

Groups of men were screened Satur­day against a data­base of Is­lamic State sus­pects, and two pris­on­ers were dragged past the crowd and into an aban­doned build­ing.

“We brought them di­rectly from in­side Mo­sul,” said an Iraqi spe­cial forces sol­dier from in­side the Humvee that de­liv­ered the de­tainees. He spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity in line with reg­u­la­tions. “They were shoot­ing at us; I saw them with my own eyes,” he said.

Iraqi forces de­clared eastern Mo­sul “fully lib­er­ated” in Jan­uary af­ter of­fi­cially launch­ing the op­er­a­tion to re­take the city in Oc­to­ber.

A for­mer Iraqi army lieu­tenant colonel and spe­cial­ist in land- at­tack mis­siles, who used the nick­name Abu Karim out of fear for the safety of his fam­ily, de­scribed a “de­te­ri­o­rat­ing se­cu­rity and hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion” in­side western Mo­sul.

“I’m hid­ing in my house, and my wife lives in con­stant fear of Daesh raid­ing our home,” said Abu Karim, us­ing the Ara­bic acro­nym for the ex­trem­ist group.

Abu Karim said Is­lamic State fight­ers had been set­ting up check­points and storm­ing homes to crack down on in­for­mants, met­ing out pun­ish­ments such as flog­ging, jail time, and fines for any­one car­ry­ing a mo­bile phone or found with an In­ter­net con­nec­tion.

“[The Is­lamic State] tried to re­cruit me be­cause of my ex­per­tise in mis­siles. But I told them I fought in the war against Iran and the Amer­i­cans and couldn’t fight any­more. They took me be­fore a judge, and he let me go with a $500 dol­lar fine,” Abu Karim said. He added that some Is­lamic State fight­ers were flee­ing to the north of Mo­sul and that the city’s res­i­dents would wel­come the ar­rival of the coun­tert­er­ror­ism force and the fed­eral po­lice.

Mean­while, the Saudi for­eign min­is­ter was in Bagh­dad Satur­day — the first high-level visit of a Saudi of­fi­cial to the coun­try since the 2003 U.S.-led in­va­sion — to meet with his Iraqi coun­ter­part, Ibrahim al-Jaa­fari, and Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi.

In a state­ment is­sued by the Iraqi For­eign Min­istry, al-Jaa­fari said the visit was to dis­cuss co­op­er­a­tion in fight­ing ter­ror­ism, adding, “The ties that bind are many, and the visit comes to re­store bi­lat­eral re­la­tions to their cor­rect course.”

The state­ment also called on Saudi Ara­bia to re­it­er­ate its po­si­tion against Turk­ish ground troops in Iraq.


A man, in­jured dur­ing fight­ing be­tween Iraqi se­cu­rity forces and Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, is taken to hospi­tal Satur­day as dis­placed peo­ple flee their homes in Ma­mun neigh­bor­hood on the western side of Mo­sul, Iraq.

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