ISIS not leav­ing qui­etly in Mo­sul

Vic­tory de­clared but shells still fly­ing; re­port cites civil­ian toll

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - COMPILED BY DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE REPORTS In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Louisa Loveluck of The Washington Post and by Bran Janssen, Su­san­nah Ge­orge, Maamoun Youssef, Jamey Keaten, Si­nan Sala­hed­din and Muhanad al-Saleh of The A

MO­SUL, Iraq — Spo­radic clashes broke out Tues­day in Mo­sul, a day af­ter Iraq’s prime min­is­ter de­clared “to­tal vic­tory” over the Is­lamic State ex­trem­ist group, with sev­eral airstrikes hit­ting the Old City neigh­bor­hood that was the scene of the bat­tle’s fi­nal days.

Plumes of smoke rose as Is­lamic State shells landed near Iraqi po­si­tions, and heavy gun­fire could be heard on the west­ern edge of the Old City.

The clashes un­der­scored the dan­gers still posed by the mil­i­tants af­ter Iraqi forces an­nounced they had re­gained full con­trol of Mo­sul, the coun­try’s sec­ond-largest city, three years af­ter it was seized by ex­trem­ists bent on build­ing a global caliphate.

Mean­while, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional warned in a re­port Tues­day that the con­flict in Mo­sul has cre­ated a “civil­ian catas­tro­phe,” with the ex­trem­ists car­ry­ing out forced dis­place­ment and sum­mary killings and us­ing civil­ians as hu­man shields.

The re­port also de­tailed vi­o­la­tions by Iraqi forces and the U.S.-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 U.S.-led coali­tion,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s re­search di­rec­tor for the Mideast.

The re­port, which cov­ers the first five months of this year, notes how Is­lamic State fight­ers moved civil­ians with them around the city, pre­vent­ing them from es­cap­ing and cre­at­ing bat­tle spa­ces with dense civil­ian pop­u­la­tions while “Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coali­tion failed to adapt their tac­tics.”

The Iraqi forces and the U.S.-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.

As Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi pre­pared Mon­day to de­clare vic­tory against the Is­lamic State in Mo­sul, mil­lions of leaflets flut­tered through the skies with a prom­ise from the gov­ern­ment to its peo­ple that the city would never be alone again.

Across the coun­try, the party had al­ready started. There was danc­ing in the streets of Bagh­dad. In the south­ern city of Basra, fire­works crack­led late into the night.

De­feat in the north­ern city is a heavy blow for the Is­lamic State, rob­bing the group of one of its most im­por­tant strongholds.

But viewed from the ground, Iraq’s vic­tory is a messy busi­ness.

No one knows how many peo­ple have died in nine gru­el­ing months of ur­ban war­fare. Half the city’s pop­u­la­tion has been dis­placed, and across Mo­sul’s west­ern dis­tricts, the most pop­u­lous neigh­bor­hoods have been shat­tered.

Sit­ting still and alone in the chaos of an aid dis­tri­bu­tion point this week, Shaimaa, 17, said she had es­caped the fight­ing alone.

Her three broth­ers were hauled off to an Is­lamic State prison last year and re­main miss­ing. Her sis­ter died in a bomb­ing.

As for her par­ents: “There was an airstrike,” she said, and that was the last time she saw her mother. “I saw my fa­ther’s body in the rub­ble and I walked away. We got our city back, but there is noth­ing for me in it.”

Fam­i­lies around her said they had lost some­one to an airstrike or Is­lamic State shelling. Some­times that meant one child; other times it meant five.

In tak­ing back the city, Iraqi se­cu­rity forces first took the east­ern half. Then they moved on the more densely pop­u­lated west, re­ly­ing more heav­ily on U.S.-led coali­tion airstrikes and tak­ing heavy ca­su­al­ties as they went.

The east­ern dis­tricts, mean­while, have sprung back to life. Fruit-sell­ers line the roads, ped­dling mel­ons and mul­ber­ries in the heat of the day. And shops run a roar­ing trade, packed at lunchtime, and bustling with life as the sun sets.

But cross the Ti­gris River head­ing west, and the land­scape shat­ters into an ugly sea of bro­ken build­ings.

In the Old City, a fi­nal re­doubt for Is­lamic State mil­i­tants this week, it can be hard to tell where one struc­ture ends and an­other be­gins.

The only way through some al­ley­ways is over the tops of those homes. Mixed in the rub­ble are rem­nants of the lives of the for­mer in­hab­i­tants: baby clothes, wheel­chairs, a cheese grater. The stench of rot­ting flesh sug­gests the oc­cu­pants re­main there, too — buried, some­where, deep un­der the rub­ble.

On the east­ern bank of the Ti­gris River, an old fair­ground has been turned into a screen­ing point to stop Is­lamic State fight­ers from leav­ing among the civil­ians. In­side an old bumper-car rink, dozens of men sat in rows last week and waited for their judg­ment. Mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers in bal­a­clavas spo­rad­i­cally moved among them to pull out an evac­uee ac­cused of work­ing with the mil­i­tants.

Some went qui­etly. Oth­ers wanted a fight.

“I swear I only prayed in their mosque. I have noth­ing to do with them,” shouted one man, his back cov­ered in what ap­peared to be fresh welts.

Speak­ing from be­hind his face cov­er­ing, an of­fi­cer waved for his col­leagues to drag the man away.

“You were walk­ing through the streets with your gun. We saw you,” he said. And then the man hung his head and cried.

AP/FELIPE DANA

Smoke from an airstrike on Is­lamic State po­si­tions rises Tues­day over the Old City area of Mo­sul in north­ern Iraq.

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