Tuesday, 30 May 2017

ISIS uses remittance companies to obtain money, says Iraqi judicial council

ISIS uses remittance companies to obtain money, says Iraqi judicial council

SULAIMANI – The Iraqi Higher Judicial Council released a report on Wednesday (May 10) saying that the Islamic State (ISIS) is using remittance companies and selling goods to the Iraqi market in order to create funds.

The judicial council report also said security forces had detained a number of ISIS militants who were responsible for ISIS finances in the country. A number of investigative prosecutors told the judicial council that a number of the detainees worked in the group finding methods to receive money. The judicial council said ISIS receives money from rich people in neighboring countries through remittance companies.

“A large amount of the money which is sent through remittance companies is transmitted to Baghdad,” the report added. “A person who receives the money says the money has been transferred to him to buy houses, cars or refineries. It is repeated twice a month.”
The report also stated that ISIS is receiving money through indirect ways such as selling goods to the Iraqi market to obtain money. The goods are traded cheaply so as to be sold rapidly.

The report comes after ISIS loses territories it captured in the country during its swift advance in 2014. The militant group is now facing a big loss after Iraqi forces liberated the eastern side of Mosul in February. ISIS militants captured Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, when they swept across the country's north in the summer of 2014. Iraqi forces have gradually clawed back territory since then, and launched a massive operation to retake Mosul in October last year.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Jihadists snaring starving civilians in Mosul death trap

Jihadists snaring starving civilians in Mosul death trap

May 11, 2017 (Yahoo News)

Baghdad (AFP) - Jihadists preparing for a desperate last stand in Mosul are booby-trapping homes with civilians inside and welding doors shut on starving families to prevent the population from fleeing, residents say. Iraqi forces are closing in fast on the Old City and its narrow streets, where the Islamic State group is expected to focus its significantly depleted military capabilities.
The most violent group in modern jihad has repeatedly resorted to human shields to cover its movements but in Mosul the jihadists appear to be taking the tactic to new levels.

"Daesh came to our house and welded the door. They gave us a small amount of water and a white cloth and said: 'Here's a shroud for you'," said one resident of Zinjili neighbourhood.
The woman sent a voice message to a relative living in the "liberated" eastern side of Mosul and said she was now trapped in her own house with her husband, her four children and no food.
Resources were already scarce when the huge government offensive to wrest back Mosul from IS was launched in October last year. After more than six months of fighting, the living conditions of residents of the last neighbourhoods IS still holds are beyond dire. A 35-year-old man who gave his name as Abu Rami and lives in the Old City of west Mosul said IS was desperate to keep the population from running away.

"They have been doing this lately. When they suspect a family of intending to escape to the security forces, they lock them in," he told AFP by phone.

- Hunger the biggest killer -

"They have detained several families like this here, and in some cases they weld the doors to be sure," he said. Houses in Mosul often have barred windows or are built around walled courtyards with a single door onto the street.

"Those families have a choice of dying of hunger, disease or shelling."
Abdulkarim al-Obeidi, a civil activist from Mosul, said an estimated 250,000 people were still trapped in the Old City and the handful of other areas that remain under IS control.
"Daesh is locking doors on families inside those areas that have not yet been liberated. They are detaining people," he said.

He put the number of IS fighters defending their last redoubts in west Mosul at around 600, meaning that the jihadists are massively outnumbered and making the resort to human shields an increasingly important part of their defence strategy.
"Daesh members have everything they need because they raided people's homes and took their food stockpiles," Obeidi said, advocating airdrops to save thousands from starving to death.
"Daesh wants to sow terror among civilians with this filthy tactic of welding doors shut on people," said Hossameddin al-Abbar, a councillor for Nineveh, the province of which Mosul is the capital.
"There are people dying of hunger and disease now, especially children and elderly people," he said, adding that it was impossible to know exactly how many.
"At this stage, hunger is killing more than shelling and fighting."

- Booby traps -
Another method residents say IS has used to prevent a civilian exodus is booby-trapping, a weapon the jihadists had previously used mainly to kill or maim the advancing government forces.
A senior officer of the interior ministry's elite Rapid Response forces said they had found several families stuck in booby-trapped homes since the launch last week of an operation in northwestern Mosul.

"The Daesh gangs are booby-trapping houses with people inside them," Major General Thamer Abu Turab told an AFP reporter in west Mosul.

"We found eight such houses, where our EOD (ordnance disposal) teams were able to defuse the devices and get the families out," he said.
The jihadists' deterrence seems effective as cases of families attempting to flee IS-held areas before the arrival of the federal security forces are relatively rare.
Many of the civilians who are not locked in by IS essentially do it themselves and hunker down in basements with whatever food supplies they still have.
Abu Imad, a middle-aged former restaurant employee who lives with his family of five in the Zinjili neighbourhood, said the population was terrified.
"Behind the walls on the streets, there are rooms and cellars packed with people too scared to move. And hunger is killing people now," he told AFP by phone.
"I know some people have started eating plants and are boiling paper. At this rate you will soon see people eating cats and dogs."

Bibliotheca Alexandrina launches campaign to provide Mosul University library with 100,000 books

Bibliotheca Alexandrina launches campaign to provide Mosul University library with 100,000 books

(IraqiNews.com) The Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt has launched an international campaign to provide Ashurbanipal Library of the Mosul University with 100,000 books, within efforts to revive the library destroyed by the Islamic State militants in 2015.

“The first amount of books offered to Ashurbanipal reaches 1,500 titles of books offered from Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the Egyptian national committee for museums and the French institute for documents and social studies,” according to Khaled Azab, head of the BA Central Projects and Services Sector.

“The Bibliotheca Alexandrina leads an international campaign to provide Ashurbanipal with 100,000 books,” he added.

The Egyptian Library offered Mosul University around 5,000 books before IS burnt the Mosul Library after taking over the city. Ashurbanipal Library, named after the last ancient Assyrian king, is one of the oldest libraries in the world. The group, which considered sculptures as symbols of infidelity, posted videos showing its members axing down priceless monuments in Mosul, drawing international condemnation. Reports later showed that some antiquities were sold out in online auctions.

Eastern Mosul was retaken by government troops in January after three months of battles. Another major offensive was launched in February to retake the western side of the city.

VIDEO: Thousands Flee Mosul As End Nears For Islamic State

Thousands Flee Mosul As End Nears For Islamic State

5/10/2017 (MSN)

As Iraqi security forces enter their final phase of the Mosul campaign, thousands of residents continue to flee the northern city. According to the United Nations, 22,000 people have fled Mosul in the last week. Citing figures from the Iraqi government, the UN added that over 11,000 people passed through a screening site south of Mosul over two days. Those fleeing the city stated the harrowing escape was fraught with danger, because Islamic State militants shot at them. Over the last seven months, an estimated 600,000 people have fled the city. The mass exodus has coincided with the government's campaign to liberate the northern Iraqi city.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

VIDEO: The girl whose school was run by so-called Islamic State

The girl whose school was run by so-called Islamic State

10 May 2017 (BBC)

Eight-year-old Shifa'a went to school in Mosul, the Iraqi city controlled by so-called Islamic State for the last two years. She says she was beaten on her first day for not wearing a headscarf or niqab.

Her family risked their lives to flee the war-torn city and take refuge in a camp outside Mosul, where she dreams of one day becoming a doctor, a teacher or a journalist.

Young, pregnant and running from ISIS

Young, pregnant and running from ISIS

May 9, 2017 (Rescue)

Ihab was born as his mother fled the battle for Mosul. His father was killed in the early days of the fighting.

Almost 17,000 people live in Al Hol camp in northeast Syria, most of them Iraqi refugees fleeing the battle in Mosul, where coalition forces are fighting to retake the city from ISIS.
Among them is 20-year-old Sherine, who left Mosul last November.  Nearly six months pregnant at the time, she, her mother, brother, and five sisters would embark on a journey that found them wandering in desert, fleeing waves of fighting and dodging landmines—searching for a safe haven to give birth to her child.
Escape from Mosul
Like so many expectant parents, Sherine and her husband spent her first trimester dreaming of the future. “In Mosul, we were planning, talking about how to raise the baby, so many things,” she says, staring blankly ahead as she remembers. Then she glances at baby Ihab, her three-week old son, and she smiles. “He looks like his father, but he has my eyes.”
But Ihab’s father is not with her—he died in the early days of fighting in Mosul.
After her son-in-law’s death, Sherine’s mother, Noor, decided it was time for the family to leave the city.
“Life under ISIS was like a prison,” recalls Noor. “It got worse and worse.” Noor, too, had lost her husband, left to raise her seven children alone.
“We heard about Al Hol camp, that life was okay there,” she says. “But the route going west was difficult, and I had no money to pay a smuggler.”


Operating in a war zone: DO volunteers outside Mosul, Iraq

Operating in a war zone: DO volunteers outside Mosul, Iraq

Just after Christmas last year, general surgeon Timothy Burandt, DO, left his Michigan home to volunteer for the aid organization Samaritan’s Purse in northern Iraq, near Mosul. Dr. Burandt spent the month of January operating on patients at the organization’s newly constructed emergency field hospital and returned for another month in April.
Because the field hospital was hours closer to conflict areas than the nearest medical facility, many of his patients would likely have died if their care had been delayed.
Ultimately, Dr. Burandt operated on more than 100 patients during his two months in Iraq. This fall, he’ll receive the American College of Osteopathic Surgeons’ Humanitarian Award for his service. Following is an edited interview.

What surprised you about practicing outside Mosul?

The degree of injury in a war zone is like nothing I’d ever seen before. We saw so much penetrating trauma—land mines, IEDs, snipers, pieces of metal and plastic ripping through bodies. The lethality and the volume of it is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
We took care of civilians as well as Iraqi security forces and ISIS fighters. I learned that many ISIS fighters are not ISIS ideologues. In so many cases, people were coerced into fighting with ISIS. They were kidnapped or ISIS had threatened to kill their families if they didn’t join.
Dr. Burandt (center right with green cap) is in the operating room at the emergency field hospital outside Mosul, Iraq. (Photo provided by Dr. Burandt)

What was a typical day like at the field hospital?

In January, when the hospital was still being set up, it was all emergency surgery and acute injuries, such as those from IEDs and gunshots. There were often mass casualties from people who had been at a market that got mortared or had been shot by snipers. We would have to see all patients in minutes and decide who went first, second, third, and so on.
When I returned in April, we were starting to see more chronic injuries. People would come in who had been hurt for days or weeks but were unable to get medical care because it was unsafe for them to travel.
It was more common for us to have a schedule of surgeries for the day then, though ambulances would show up at any time. We were operating from 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 at night. Afterward, we would do rounds, see how people were progressing, and make decisions about when their next operation would be.

Tell us about a patient who stuck with you.

In January, I operated on a 30-year-old mother who had been holding her baby when an IED exploded outside her house. She had penetrating shrapnel in her chest, arms and abdomen. She lost her left arm and right leg. The baby had been instantly killed, but likely saved his mother’s life by preventing shrapnel from getting near her heart or most vital organs.
She was hanging on by a thread in the intensive care unit, but eventually recovered to the point that she could be discharged. In April, she came back to the hospital and I didn’t recognize her. She was a young, vibrant woman. We taught her then how to stand up using a crutch. We’re hoping that soon, she’ll be able to get a prosthesis and start walking again.
She lived through something horrendous, but is thriving. She left all of us with a sense of hope.

How did you cope with worries about your own safety?

Samaritan’s Purse did an excellent job keeping us safe. I received safety training beforehand—hours of online courses on land mines, IEDs, and so on. When I got there, I was briefed daily on security in and around the hospital. They taught us how to react if there was an attack on the hospital. They had bunkers we could retreat to. Ultimately, you rely on security experts to take care of safety, so you can focus on your patients.

How did you emotionally cope with all the trauma you saw?

The surgeons try to do as much as they can as a group. Together, we would decide who got surgery first, who got placed on the four ventilators we had at the hospital. This way, no one person bears the weight of making a life-or-death decision.

Will you be returning?

I may be going back this month.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Iraqi forces close in on Mosul with bit-by-bit push

Iraqi forces close in on Mosul with bit-by-bit push

2017-05-09 (Xinhua)

MOSUL, Iraq, May 8 (Xinhua) -- Iraqi forces battling Islamic State (IS) militants on Monday pushed further into northern Mosul on the fifth day of a new push that initiated a new front in the northwestern edge of IS stronghold in the western side of Mosul, the Iraqi military said.
The army's 9th Armored Division and elite forces of the federal police, known as Rapid Response, freed the neighborhood of Harmat and raised the Iraqi flag over some of its buildings after heavy clashes against IS militants, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.
The troops also recaptured Harmat's residential buildings after heavy clashes against IS militants who were holed up in the buildings, leaving at least 17 militants killed, Qasim Nazzal, commander of the 9th division, told Xinhua in the western side of Mosul.

Nazzal confirmed that the troops are now initiating a new push at the edge of the neighboring July 30 neighborhood, which is one of the main IS redoubts in the northern part of Mosul's western side.
Meanwhile, the federal police forces pushed toward the adjacent neighborhood of al-Iqtisadi and opened a new front in southern July 30 neighborhood amid heavy clashes with the extremist militants, Raid Shakir Jawdat, the commander of federal police, said in a statement.
Also in the day, the commandos of the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) made a significant progress in the industrial area of Wadi Ugab in northwestern Mosul and seized most of the vast area, putting the troops at the edge of the IS stronghold in Islah al-Ziraie neighborhood, the JOC said in a separate statement.

The CTS Commander Abdul Ghani al-Asadi told Xinhua that the troops fought fierce street-to-street battles against IS militants, killing at least 13 of them, including three suicide bombers, and destroyed two suicide car bombs. "The CTS forces are also fighting on other fronts; they are fighting alongside the army and the federal police in the neighborhoods of Harmat, July 30 and Zanjily which is adjacent to the old city center," Asadi said.

Early on Thursday, the Iraqi army and Rapid Response special forces pushed on the new front from the northwestern edge of Mosul toward the areas of Mushairfah, Kanisah and Harmat in the northern part of the western side of the city.

The new push would help the special forces of the CTS and the interior ministry federal police, who are making slow progress in the southern part of Mosul's western side because of the stiff resistance of the militants in the densely-populated areas of the old city center, where roughly 400,000 residents are believed to still be trapped under IS rule.The IS militants are now being surrounded by the troops in the northern part of Mosul's western side, which includes the old city center. Captain Mahmoud, commander of a federal police company fighting IS militants inside the old city center, said the new push in the northwestern part of Mosul's western side has reduced the pressure on the security forces in the old city center.

Observers say the new push was designed to pull some of IS militants from the narrow streets of the densely-populated city center to fight them in less densely-populated neighborhoods with wide streets in northwestern Mosul, in order to reduce the civilian casualties in the city center. The new push would enable the troops to advance deeper inside the city center, in particular toward the old areas around the historical al-Nuri Mosque in the middle of Mosul's old city center. The mosque with its famous leaning minaret, which gave the city its nickname "al-Hadbaa" or "the hunchback," has a symbolic value, as it was where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the cross-border caliphate in large areas in Iraq and Syria in his sole public appearance in July 2014.

Late in January, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, declared the liberation of Mosul's eastern side, or the left bank of Tigris, after over 100 days of fighting IS militants.

On February 19, Abadi announced the start of an offensive to drive extremist militants out of the western side of Mosul, locally known as the right bank of the Tigris River, which bisects the city.
However, the western part of Mosul, with its narrow streets and heavily populated neighborhoods, appears to be a bigger challenge to the Iraqi forces. Mosul, 400 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, has been under IS control since June 2014, when government forces abandoned their weapons and fled, enabling IS militants to take control of parts of Iraq's northern and western regions.

Front Line: Inside Iraqi Soldiers’ Anti-IS War

Front Line: Inside Iraqi Soldiers’ Anti-IS War

Iraqi soldiers waiting to deploy to the front lines take selfies and tell stories, anxious to get back into the action after weeks of waiting, in Mosul, Iraq, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

The walkie-talkie in the commander’s hand buzzes and crackles as soldiers line up their humvees and tanks, readying themselves to enter Islamic State territory.

“Tell all the men to put on helmets,” are the orders over the walkie-talkie. “I don’t want to see anyone without a helmet!”

A few minutes later, many of the soldiers still don’t have helmets, including the commander with the walkie-talkie, who wears a camouflage cap.

Five full Iraqi divisions are fighting in the latest offensive to re-take IS-controlled northwestern Mosul, including the Army, Federal Police and Special Forces known as the Golden Division and the Emergency Response Division.

A few kilometers from the battle the Iraqi Army’s 16th division’ appears gleeful as they get out of their vehicles to wait on the dusty once-residential street for the next order to move forward. Some men tease each other and take selfies.

Gunner Ali el-Babli shows a photo of himself after a recent battle, in Mosul, Iraq, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

Only the gunners perched inside humvees with their heads and weapons exposed on the top appear to remain on high alert as we wait. If the battle goes wrong, they are in the most danger. Most of them wear helmets.

“I was scared at first,” says gunner Ali el-Babli, in a rare admission in this world of bravura. “But after two years I’m used to it.”

Five Iraqi divisions are now deployed in northwestern Mosul, fighting to retake the bulk of the city and surround the densely populated Old City, which has stalled the battle for weeks, in Mosul, Iraq, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

The clamor from the nearby IS-controlled neighborhoods is constant. Airstrikes crash into buildings and militants fire machine guns at helicopters overhead. Plumes of smoke shoot hundreds of feet into the air as car bombs explode. An IS mortar lobbed clear over Iraqi front lines falls in the field across the street.

The 16th Division has not seen action in weeks, and soldiers tell us the long days and nights spent in crowded make-shift bases while airstrikes and mortars pound the militants nearby has taken its toll. The waiting, soldiers say, is harder than the fighting.

“Just five or 10 minutes,” Lt. Col. Amar Younis tells us as he whips out of his commander’s office, a card-table set up inside an abandoned home. “And you will see us beating IS with your own eyes.”

The wait

Around 5 a.m. that morning, more than an hour before the units began lining up for battle, Salim, a cook at one of the 16th’s bases, had rattled a spoon in a metal can, shouting at the men to get up.

Most bounded out of bed, bypassing breakfast to grab their gear. But as the cool morning fades into glaring noon sun, so does the excitement. The militants’ defense has proven fierce, and a long night of air attacks has not broken their lines.

An Iraqi soldier points his gun at a Mosul suburb fiercely held by IS militants, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

IS heat-seeking missiles are threatening Iraqi tanks, the first line of Iraqi ground forces, and drone cameras show cars patrolling IS-controlled areas. In IS neighborhoods these days civilians don’t drive cars. They are either car bombs, or gunmen, or both.

Still waiting on the street to deploy, many soldiers crouch along a wall to stay out of the sun. Body armor leans against the concrete and higher-ranking officers have returned to the base.

Orders come to move out, and the men race into their vehicles, engines rattle and the line pulls out. After traveling a block closer to the battle, they pull over again. Men get out of their humvees, some looking deflated. Someone brings lunch, plastic bags full of the usual meal of rice-and-beans and small chunks of meat in white styrofoam containers.

Chatter turns away from battle and some men show pictures of their children on their mobile phones. Others show videos of themselves fishing by throwing grenades into small ponds.

El-Babli, the gunner, shares his biscuits and tells stories of recent victories. “We took the last area in record time,” he says. "I killed two IS militants when we liberated the shopping mall. My commander gave me two days off for that.”

Battle begins

Some men are still eating when the orders finally come in the early afternoon. Styrofoam trays are cast aside and the row of vehicles dissipates in a matter of minutes. They head for the fields surrounding an isolated suburban neighborhood on a hill. Parked at the base of the hill are cars and trucks that may or may not be laden with explosives.

After taking back this field from IS, trucks plow down IS barriers to allow humvees to move into the fight, in Mosul, Iraq, May 4, 2017. (H. Murdock/VOA)

A technical team of about five men enter the field on foot, searching for IEDs among the weeds. Tanks rumble to the front, parking in a row a couple of hundred meters from the IS-held neighborhood. The cacophony of battle sounds continues, as black smoke from another division’s battle streams into the sky.

About 20 civilians attempt to escape the hill, fleeing with a white flag in front of them.
"See those buildings over there?” says Lt. Col. Younis after firing a machine gun. “We are going to take those buildings and we are going to sleep there tonight.”

The hours that follow are painstaking, with tanks and other vehicles re-positioning themselves closer to the militants meter by meter. Soldiers say the pace of the fight varies as much as the terrain they fight in. Victory for them will mean reaching the next line on the map where they again wait for orders.

For politicians, a victory in Mosul will be a defining moment in the battle with IS. But for the army, it will just mean re-deploying resources to Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still entirely controlled by IS or other areas, like Ramadi, where sporadic fighting continues.

“After this fight there will be more wars to win,” says Major Abass Aziz.

Opinion: Whatever Happened to the Plan to Defeat ISIS?

Whatever Happened to the Plan to Defeat ISIS?

May 8 2017 (Slate)

On Jan. 28, President Trump ordered Secretary of Defense James Mattis to devise a plan, within 30 days, on how to defeat ISIS. Mattis turned in his report on Feb. 27, and, according to senior officials, it is still sitting in the White House. In the 70 days since it landed on his desk, Trump has not responded to it, modified it, or approved it as policy.

In other words, despite Trump’s claim during the election campaign that he had a plan for beating ISIS, and his later claim that he would ask the generals if they had a better idea and act on it quickly if they did, the administration has no plan—no overarching strategy—for defeating the fighters and propagandists of the Islamic State.
Mattis’ plan, according to officials who have seen it, is a “whole-of-government effort,” addressing not just the battle in Syria and Iraq but also the need for political stability after ISIS is defeated and a diplomatic settlement, including humanitarian assistance, throughout the entire region.
The absence of a presidential decision on the plan weighs heavily as the combatants slog through the final—in some ways, most brutal—round of fighting in Mosul. Even before Mattis finished his report, Trump loosened controls on U.S. commanders in the field, letting them decide on their own whether to drop bombs on targets in populated areas. The “rules of engagement” weren’t changed, nor did commanders start ignoring the laws of warfare. But whereas President Obama would often rule on whether to bomb or refrain if there was some chance that an airstrike would kill civilians, Trump has let the officer in the field calculate the probabilities and decide whether they’re too high, or low enough, to order an attack.
This may be one reason for the recent surge of civilian casualties in Mosul. In this latest phase of fighting, ISIS militiamen have often herded residents—those who have stayed—into a building, then put a sniper up on the roof. The idea is either to deter Iraqi soldiers and U.S. fighter planes from bombing the building, knowing that dozens of civilians would die—or to lure them to destroy the building, in the hope that the survivors and the relatives of those killed will blame the Iraqis and the Americans for the carnage, thus reigniting opposition to the Baghdad government and the U.S. military.
The ISIS commanders seem on the verge of defeat in Iraq; the battle for Mosul is their last stand. But they also understand that the war is shifting to a new phase—to the struggle for who controls Iraq (and Syria) even after they’re diminished or defeated on the battlefield. And they are fighting in a way that has the best chance of sustaining the chaos and instability—conditions on which their rebellion thrives.
In fact, all the local combatants are positioning themselves for the next phase. The fighting in Mosul is so intense, in good part, because one of the leaders in the anti–ISIS coalition, the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), wants it to be intense. On paper, the PMF—which comprises more than one-third of the allied fighters in Mosul—has been incorporated into the Iraqi army, but in fact, it remains true to its origins as a Shiite militia, backed by—and loyal to—Iran.
During the run-up to the battle for Mosul, U.S. military advisers wanted to keep a route clear, so that ISIS militias could evacuate the city. First, it would be easier to pummel the militias out in the open than to engage them in door-to-door urban combat. Second, fewer civilians trapped in the city would be killed, and fewer homes would be destroyed.
But, according to a senior officer involved in these discussions, the PMF leaders rejected the advice. Their goal, all along, has been to establish Shiite dominance throughout Iraq—especially in the province of Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital. They want to punish Mosul, a majority Sunni city. And they want to weaken the Iraqi Security Forces, the country’s established army, which has taken the brunt of casualties in the urban war of attrition, thus leaving the PMF as Iraq’s dominant military force.
So the noose was wrapped entirely around Mosul, with no escape routes, and ISIS dug in to fight. The Iraqi army’s approach to this sort of battle plays right into the PMF’s desire for maximum destruction. As they have shown in previous battles over the years—Ramadi, Fallujah, Bayii, and Sinjar—Iraqi officers don’t bother with the delicate task of clearing buildings that the enemy occupies. Instead, they flatten the buildings, then occupy the rubble. That’s what has happened in Mosul; it has made the fighting more intense, and it will make the recovery more prolonged and difficult.
The combatants’ rush to position themselves for the era after the fall of ISIS—whether the era is one of negotiations or further conflict—also explains Turkey’s recent airstrikes against the Kurdish militias that have been the United States’ most effective allies in the fight against Islamic State on the Syrian side of the border.
The Turks see ISIS as a foe, but they regard the Kurds as an existential threat. This is the biggest thing that Trump doesn’t understand and that few Western leaders grasp until they look at this conflict up close. “To everybody but us,” one senior military officer told me, “the defeat of ISIS is the least important goal.”
This is why, as the defeat of ISIS draws near, the lack of a coherent U.S. strategy—or, more precisely, Trump’s hesitation or refusal to accept, adapt, or do something with Mattis’ plan—is such a source of anxiety. All the other players in this politico-military fight—the leaders of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Russia, Turkey, the Gulf States, the Sunni powers (especially Saudi Arabia), and the various militias, whether jihadist or anti-jihadist—know what their interests are and how they want the game to play out.
Only the United States doesn’t know, or hasn’t clearly expressed, its interests and desires. One senior official put it to me bluntly: “There is no clearly articulated end-point.” Yet this is what strategy is about: aligning a nation-state’s interests with the resources it wants to commit to fulfilling those interests. Trump is escalating U.S.–military involvement in all the battles of the region, but without a strategy—without an “articulated end-point”—escalation is senseless.
As Trump has discovered about health care and every other issue that he takes a look at, the fight against ISIS is a lot more complicated than he’d thought. Mattis has ideas, but neither he nor anyone else in the administration can put them in motion until the president decides just what it is he wants to do. We may be waiting a long time for that to happen, as the chaos continues to spiral and the bombs continue to fall.

PHOTOS: Youngsters enjoy Mosul's reopened cafes and game rooms

Youngsters enjoy Mosul's reopened cafes and game rooms

8/5/2017 (Rudaw)

After closing down for three years, billiard, dominoes and shisha halls are open to the youth of Mosul.

Such places of relaxation and fun were deemed by ISIS as 'haram.'
Four months after retaking it from ISIS, life is getting back to normal in the eastern half of Mosul.

Islamic State execute 47 multinationals in Hawija, including members

Islamic State execute 47 multinationals in Hawija, including members

Kirkuk (IraqiNew.com) Islamic State members executed 47 of their prisoners in Kirkuk’s Hawija on Monday, including 12 of their comrades, according to local sources in the province.
Those executed were of several Arab nationalities, according to the source, who added that the sentence was applied as per an order from the group’s so-called wali( mayor) of Hawija at al-Bakara airbase. Militants filmed the execution, according to the source who did not explain the method of the execution.

IS members have been in control over Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk since 2014, when the group came to the scene, took over several Iraqi regions and proclaimed an Islamic “caliphate”. Iraqi government forces, backed by a U.S.-led coalition and paramilitary troops, launched an offensive in October to retake the city of Mosul, Islamic State’s largest urban stronghold in Iraq. The Iraqi government is planning to aim at other IS havens across Iraq after Mosul. Iraqi generals have said Islamic State currently controls only less that seven percent of Iraq’s territories.

Since taking over Iraqi regions, Islamic State members have executed civilians, security personnel and many of its own members for various reasons ranging from collaboration with security forces to attempting to flee areas under the group’s control, poor performance in combat against Iraqi troops and violating the group’s extreme religious rules.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

PHOTOS: Painting New Life in East Mosul After ISIS

Painting New Life in East Mosul After ISIS

April 15, 2017 (Preemptive Love)

New York Times journalist Rukmini Callimachi shared a series of powerful tweets from her recent visit to east Mosul. The eastern side of the city was liberated in January. But signs of ISIS rule—and the death it brought—still remain. One painter is taking it upon himself to do something about that, replacing ISIS graffiti with messages of hope.

You've been sharing tangible hope with the people of east Mosul for months—in the form of food, refurbished medical clinics vaccinating babies and caring for pregnant moms, and repairs to Mosul's battle-damaged water system. You're showing up in west Mosul, too—where the battle against ISIS still rages. 


Iraq: IS launches chlorine gas attacks in western Mosul

Iraq: IS launches chlorine gas attacks in western Mosul

Apr. 15, 2017 (AP)

BAGHDAD (AP) — An Iraqi military officer says Islamic State militants have launched a gas attack in a newly-liberated area in western Mosul.
The officer with the anti-terrorism forces said Saturday that the attack occurred the night before in the al-Abar neighborhood, when IS fired a rocked loaded with chlorine. He said seven soldiers suffered breathing problems and were treated in a nearby field clinic.
The officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release information.
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are currently battling IS militants in the more densely-populated western half of Mosul. Iraqi officials say more than half of western Mosul has been retaken. The extremists were driven out of the eastern half of Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, in January.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

ISIS ‘minister of war’ from Tajikistan killed by allied airstrike in Mosul

ISIS ‘minister of war’ from Tajikistan killed by allied airstrike in Mosul 

15 April 2017 (The Times)


The highest ranking Islamic State commander in Mosul, described as the jihadists’ minister of war, has been killed in an airstrike, reports The Times.

Gulmurod Khalimov, who was originally from Tajikistan, was in the west of the city last week when the missile struck. It was the third time in recent months that he had been the target of an airstrike, according to an Iraqi military source.

The source said that Khalimov, who had training from US special forces during his time in Tajikistan’s regular armed forces, had been responsible for planning the jihadists’ defence of Mosul and was behind hundreds of car bombings against the coalition.

VIDEO: Babies Starve Due to Prolonged Battle in Mosul

Babies Starve Due to Prolonged Battle in Mosul

Apr 14, 2017 (Christian Post)

A nurse checks patient Iraqi girl Nawras Raed, six months, at a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres in Qayyara, Iraq, April 6, 2017.

A hospital in Qayyara, about 60 kilometers south of Mosul, has opened a new specialist ward to deal with the growing number of malnourished children as fighting rages on between the armed forces and the jihadists holed up in the city. The dire situation highlights the war's heavy toll on several hundred thousand trapped civilians.

The hospital scene is heartbreaking. Infants shriek due to hunger pangs but doctors cannot feed them as it might worsen their condition. Most of the babies are less than six months old, which means they were born at the time when government forces closed the last major supply route, leading to food shortages in Mosul. Locals who have managed to escape Mosul say there is almost nothing to eat there but flour mixed with water and boiled wheat grain. Whatever little food remains are too expensive for most inhabitants to afford or are hoarded for Islamic State (ISIS) members and their supporters.

"Normally, nutritional crises are much more common in Africa and not in this kind of country," pediatrician Rosanna Meneghetti told Reuters. "We did not anticipate this."
The problem is partly pointed to the lack of traditional breastfeeding among mothers. Much as they wanted to breastfeed their babies, many mothers are unable to do so due to the physical and emotional rigors of living in a war zone.
"The mother is very stressed and can't find much food herself so cannot produce so much milk," Meneghetti explained.

One of the mothers was forced to feed her baby with either sugar or flour dissolved in water.
While most of Mosul have been retaken, the U.S.-led coalition is struggling to eject the militants from several districts in the west, including the Old City. The offensive is taking longer than authorities have predicted. The longer the campaign drags, the more people die — especially children.


Iran-Controlled Militia Groups Playing Key Role in Operations in Mosul, Kirkuk

Iran-Controlled Militia Groups Playing Key Role in Operations in Mosul, Kirkuk

Apr 13, 2017 (Middle East Institute)

The spokesman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (P.M.F.) reiterated today that its forces will play a leading role in military operations in the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh and Kirkuk – particularly in the strategic city of Tal Afar in western Mosul. “The Popular Mobilization Forces have a commanding and extensive presence and participation in operational zones in Nineveh Province,” P.M.F. spokesman Ahmad al-Assadi said in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency, an outlet affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.). “The Popular Mobilization Forces will certainly take part in liberating Tal Afar. The operation will begin in a few days.” He further explained: “At present, these forces are stationed between Tal Abta in the south and Sinjar in the north of Nineveh Province. In addition to repelling Daesh [Islamic State] attacks in this zone, [P.M.F] also assists other forces that are participating in operations to liberate the remaining regions in the northwestern front and western parts of Mosul.” The P.M.F. commander also revealed that the militia forces will also be part of military operations in al-Hawija District and its surrounding regions in Kirkuk Province.

Comment: The Iraqi security forces began military operations in western Mosul in February after they recaptured eastern parts of the city from the Islamic State. But prior to that, it was Iran-backed militia groups that led operations against the Islamic State in western Mosul and they still hold significant influence in the region. About 60 percent of the western flank of Mosul has been retaken, while terrorists still control the rest – including the center of the strategic city of Tal Afar. Difficult terrain and population density have reportedly slowed down operations in western Mosul. The Islamic State using local population as human shield has further compounded the operations.
But while the ultimate seizure of the region from the Islamic State is certain, post-liberation security and stability in Mosul – and in Iraq in general – is far from guaranteed. For now, the Islamic State as the common enemy has brought all sides together. The Iraqi security forces, Iran-controlled Shiite militia groups, and U.S.-led coalition, and other Iraqi factions are currently all battling the Islamic State. But once the common enemy is defeated, divisions and rivalries will intensify.

In western Mosul, Iran-controlled groups pose the biggest threat to the region’s security. The prominent role of sectarian Shiite militias under the command of the I.R.G.C. worries Iraqi Sunnis and regional Sunni states. These groups have committed engaged in acts of arbitrary killing, kidnapping, looting and rights abuses in the past. It is feared that they may engage in revenge killing against Sunni inhabitants of western Mosul once the Islamic State is ousted.
The P.M.F. consists of militia forces largely from Shiite but also other Iraqi ethnic and religious groups, and the alliance has now been legally integrated into the Iraqi security forces. However, the most powerful units with the P.M.F. are controlled by the I.R.G.C., which poses threat not only to the Iraqi security but also to U.S. military advisers who are assisting Iraqi security forces in Mosul an across the country. Recently, Iran-linked Iraqi militia groups have launched a vicious propaganda campaign against the United States and pressured the Baghdad government to “expel” American forces from Iraq.

Friday, 14 April 2017

'Be strong': Iraqis wounded in Mosul try trauma counseling to cope

'Be strong': Iraqis wounded in Mosul try trauma counseling to cope

April 13, 2017 (Reuters)

Iraqi Jamal Ahmed, 16, who lost his leg during the fighting in Mosul, attends a physiotherapy session at Red Cross Physical Rehabilitation C

SOUTH OF MOSUL, Iraq (Reuters) - Lying in a hospital bed, Iraqi student Ahmed Khalaf is close to despair after having lost a leg when rocket shrapnel hit him as he ran for his life from Islamic State (IS) militants in Mosul.

"Be strong, Ahmed, and have no fear," psychotherapist Karam Saad advises the 20-year-old Khalaf as he relates how his family had just set out from home to escape western Mosul's war zone three weeks ago, only for the rocket to crash nearby.

Khalaf is in now in a hospital south of Mosul but has lost contact with his father and brother, who were seriously wounded in the March 19 incident. The father and brother are in intensive care in different clinics in Erbil in the relatively peaceful Kurdish autonomous region 80 km (50 miles) from Mosul. They are among 320,000 civilians displaced by the six-month-old battle for Iraq's second largest city,  which U.S.-backed government forces are striving to wrest back from Islamic State jihadists who seized it in 2014.

Khalaf is struggling to come to terms with the fact doctors had to amputate his right leg above the knee. He was offered trauma support, something unusual in deeply conservative and religious Iraq, to help him cope with his new disability.

"The psychological sessions have helped me but these thoughts keep coming back about what has happened to me, to my father and brother. They keep coming and coming," Khalaf tells the psychotherapist.

"I can't think of my future right now. But, God willing, I can resume my life, continue my school studies." The humanitarian group Handicap International has given counseling to Khalaf and more than 5,300 other displaced people from Mosul. It has also provided physical rehabilitation to almost 1,200 badly wounded people including amputees. But with the battle entering its seventh month and around 400,000 civilians still trapped in the militants' fiercely defended last urban bastion in Iraq - Mosul's labyrinthine Old City, this is just the start. "Facing a crisis of such scale, the humanitarian organizations may have difficulties in responding to all the needs," said Marlene Sigonney, the group's spokeswoman.

The idea of psychotherapy is relatively new in Iraq, where as in other conservative Arab countries people with emotional problems tend to seek help in a mosque or church, not a clinic. "In Iraqi society, people are reluctant to deal with psychological issues," said Saad, who graduated from Mosul University before Islamic State overran the city. "They accept treatment only for the worst mental cases."

Apart from suffering from trauma, Iraqis who have lost legs or arms in war zones also struggle to get artificial limbs. At a specialist center run by the International Committee for the Red Cross in Erbil, patients must wait two months for treatment. The Erbil clinic is trying to recruit more specialists to help cope with an overflow of 210 cases from war-torn Nineveh province, of which Mosul is the regional capital. One of those learning to walk again is Ahmed Ammar, a car mechanic and father of five who ran a garage in western Mosul.

"I opened the yard door and an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded," he said as he practiced with his new prosthetic leg at the Erbil hospital.
"They cut off my leg from the ankle and fitted a prosthetic leg but then I got gangrene and they cut off my leg further from the knee (down). Islamic State planted the device. They took my leg."

Iraqis in ‘liberated’ Mosul want services restored

Iraqis in ‘liberated’ Mosul want services restored

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — The airstrike crater on a once-busy road in eastern Mosul is filled with murky water and lined with garbage, a nearby market shrouded in the stench. The fight for Iraq’s second largest city ended nearly three months ago, but little is back to normal. Iraq declared the eastern half of Mosul “fully liberated” in January and launched an ongoing operation for the western half the following month. But the destruction left by the fighting is visible everywhere in the east, and resentment is already mounting at the slow pace of reconstruction.

That could have implications for Iraq’s post-Islamic State future. Mosul is a mostly Sunni city, and widespread anger at the alleged corruption and mismanagement of the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad helped the extremists to gain a foothold in the city years ago — and overrun it in a matter of days in the summer of 2014. There is no running water or electricity in eastern Mosul, and government employees who had their salaries cut off during the extremists’ rule face a long process of security vetting before they can get paid again. Clearing crews can be seen here and there, filling in holes and dragging away the burnt shells of vehicles, but they face a daunting task.

“They brought two pipes with some gravel, and the governor and the director of the municipality came wearing workmen’s clothes to show that they were doing something,” said Riyadh Thanoun, the owner of a nut shop. He said they placed the pipes and gravel over a nearby stream where a bridge had been destroyed, but the makeshift crossing washed away in the first heavy rain.
“Now it is worse than it was before,” he said. “You can’t cross at all and have to make a long detour.”
His and other shops rely on costly outdoor generators for electricity. Damage to the water network has caused widespread diarrhea, and forced aid agencies to truck some 2.3 million liters of water into the city every day.

At the Noumania primary school for boys there are few desks or books. The windows are broken and a number of chalkboards are missing. Some classes have nevertheless resumed, even though the teachers are not being paid.

“They keep saying it will happen next month or next week, but nothing so far, only promises,” Principal Rafii Mahmoud said. When asked if the school provided lunches, he laughed. “On the contrary, they are bringing us food,” he said. Mohammed Abed Rabo, a member of parliament for Nineveh governorate, of which Mosul is the capital, blamed the situation on the “corruption and incompetence” of the local government. But Qusi Assaf, the governor’s assistant for reconstruction, said they were overwhelmed.

“We are doing our best but don’t have enough funds,” Assaf said. “It’s not just Mosul. Nineveh is a huge governorate, and we also have to provide for the camps in the middle of nowhere with a huge number of displaced people.”
Mahmoud said his teachers were working out of a sense of duty because children in Mosul had already lost two years of education under IS and couldn’t afford to lose more. He said it looked like the government was working for some other agenda, and that he could not even keep track of who was responsible for running the schools.
“We don’t have any vision for the future. We can count on God alone,” he said.

VIDEO: Kuwait opens school for Mosul IDPs in Erbil

Kuwait opens school for Mosul IDPs in Erbil

13/4/2017 (Rudaw)

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Five hundred boys and girls displaced from Mosul can now study at a school opened in Erbil by the Kuwait Consulate on Thursday.

Iraq’s Education Minister Muhammed Iqbal thanked Kuwait for the valuable initiative of the school, which consists of 14 classrooms housed in portables.

The school is one of five established by Kuwait for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Hassarok, Kasnazan, Hassan Sham camp, and in Duhok governorate, detailed project supervisor Nassrin Suqi.

Kuwait has also constructed three health centres for IDPs, Suqi added.

“The Kuwait government started a launch for humanitarian aid in cooperation with the Iraqi government,” the Kuwait Consul in Erbil, Omar Ahmed al-Kandari, told Rudaw. “The aid consists of a food basket for each IDP family, in addition to providing stationary and backpacks for 600 students who study in the school constructed by Kuwait.”

More than 3 million Iraqis are currently displaced throughout the country.


Thursday, 13 April 2017

After Mosul: Al-Abadi’s biggest test is yet to come

After Mosul: Al-Abadi’s biggest test is yet to come

12 April 2017 (Arab News)

It was over a month ago that Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi announced that the battle to recapture Mosul was entering its final stages. But seven months after the operation began, Iraqi troops are yet to take control of the heart of the heavily populated western sector of the city. Daesh fighters are refusing to give anything away without a bitter struggle. Iraqi forces are backed by US-led coalition jets that have intensified their bombing raids, sometimes with catastrophic results. On March 17, US airstrikes in west Mosul are believed to have killed at least 200 civilians, in what was described as the most devastating attack by the US against civilians in more than two decades.
Indiscriminate bombing by Iraqi forces of crowded neighborhoods in the besieged old city has killed hundreds of civilians since February. Daesh has carried out mass executions of people fleeing Mosul.

By the time the city, or what is left of it, is recaptured, the death toll could reach thousands. Eyewitness reports speak of destruction of entire neighborhoods; over 80 percent of the city is in ruins.

The civilian calamity does not stop here. Iraq’s government is blamed for gross negligence and ill preparation in dealing with hundreds of thousands of displaced citizens who have fled their homes since the battle for Mosul began. According to the UN and other agencies, between 300,000 and 400,000 civilians have been displaced and are living in inhumane conditions in refugee camps near east Mosul. They are in bad need of shelter, food and medicine, and Iraq’s government has been blamed for failing to prepare for the humanitarian crisis that was expected to unfold.

Liberating Mosul was always going to be a controversial operation. Daesh has been preparing for it for more than two years. The heavy resistance that its fighters have put up so far is not surprising. Their use of suicide bombers, explosives-laden cars, underground tunnels, booby-trapped houses and civilians as human shields was expected, making Iraqi forces’ advance costly and slow. The civilian toll and the deep humanitarian crisis have deepened political schisms in Baghdad and raised the stakes for the government. But the final outcome of the battle is assured. No matter the cost, retaking Mosul is a high priority for both Al-Abadi and US President Donald Trump. Dislodging Daesh from its most important stronghold in Iraq will be used by both as a major achievement.

The US hopes to use its victory in Mosul as a launch pad for its operation, led by a coalition of Syrian Kurds and Arab tribes, to advance on Raqqa in Syria, thus fulfilling one of Trump’s regional priorities. After Mosul, Iraqi forces, backed by the US, will head toward Daesh positions in Tal Affar and the border.

Al-Abadi knows his growing dependence on the US will exact a political price once the dust settles. Trump’s second regional priority centers on weakening and containing Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria. In the former he needs Al-Abadi, who now finds himself fending off attacks by members of his Dawa Party and other pro-Iran politicians and power players.

The battle for Mosul, despite its heavy political and humanitarian cost, will be small compared to what awaits Al-Abadi. As well as dealing with the challenge of repatriation and reconstruction, he must find ways to attract disgruntled Sunnis who see themselves as victims of Daesh terror, Shiite retribution and a dysfunctional political system. Mustering the political will to launch national reconciliation and fix an ailing and corrupt system will not be easy.
This is perhaps why he needs the support of Saudi Arabia, whose Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir was in Baghdad last month on a historic visit, and other Arab countries. Undercutting Iran’s influence in Iraq was one of the objectives of the Arab League Summit last month in Jordan. The summit’s final communique called on Iraqi leaders to find ways to end policies of exclusion and achieve national reconciliation.

Another challenge facing Al-Abadi after the Mosul battle lies with Iraqi Kurdish political and
territorial ambitions. Besides signs that the Irbil government is considering ceding from Iraq, it took a provocative measure last week in disputed oil-rich Kirkuk by raising the Kurdistan flag on government buildings.

A showdown between Iraqi Kurdistan and the Baghdad government in the coming weeks will test Al-Abadi’s ability to lead a fractured country that is grappling with sectarian rifts, failing institutions, kleptocracy and soon US-Iranian struggle for dominance. Al-Abadi will liberate Mosul, but his biggest test will be to keep his country intact following the fallout.

Born on the run: Mosul's mothers-to-be having roadside births

Born on the run: Mosul's mothers-to-be having roadside births

13 April, 2017 (Al Araby)

Three-days-old Layla at Hamam al-Alil IDP camp in Iraq [Save the Children]

Three-days-old Layla was born in the ruins of an abandoned house, with shelling and shooting all around. Her mother, Rehab, was only days away from her due date when fierce fighting in her neighbourhood forced her and her family to flee in the middle of the night.

The 17-year-old from west Mosul was struggling to walk and kept on falling. Around dawn when the fighting started again, she went into labour.

"I walked with the rest of the group but I kept on falling and was very tired," Rehab explained.

“I went into labour on the road. I was very scared for me and my baby but my mother and another older woman helped me.

“It was very quick, maybe just 15 minutes. We rested for about another 30 minutes and then we started running again,” the new young mother said.

The heart-rending story of Rehab and Layla is just one of many mothers who are facing traumatising conditions as they flee the ongoing violence in the Iraqi city of Mosul.
At least 400,000 people have been displaced since Iraqi security forces launched a huge offensive against the Islamic State (IS) group's Mosul stronghold on October 17.

The ongoing conflict in Mosul has had devastating consequences for an already vulnerable population.

More than 320,000 people – 60 percent of whom are estimated to be children – are currently displaced, with thousands more fleeing every day.
The battle in Iraq’s second largest city, which has been the Islamic group's de facto capital since 2014, is expected to take several more months.

The fighting has now reached the Old City where more than 300,000 people remain trapped and where the densely populated and narrow old streets are expected to further complicate the conflict.

Islamic State militants have repeatedly used civilians as human shields and shot and shelled people as they try to flee, amid coalition airstrikes, leaving pregnant women like Rehab not only fleeing for their lives but also forced to give birth on the run.

Despite the difficulties, Rehab still managed to give birth in very dangerous conditions. She and her family are now in the Hamam Al Alil reception centre, the main focal point for civilians fleeing Mosul.

More than 242,000 have been registered in the centre since the offensive began.

“Very young babies, many just days or weeks old are living in these conditions and their mothers, some who are as young as 15, are not getting the support they need,” said Save the Children’s Deputy County Director Aram Shakaram.

"The situation inside the reception centre is extremely poor and there is a widespread shortage of food, water and blankets. Whole families sleep on nothing but cardboard, huddling together for warmth at night," Shakaram added.
Save the Children has been providing education and psychosocial support to children displaced from Mosul with child protection teams working in reception centres to identity cases needing urgent assistance.

Twenty-day-old Lubna has been in the centre for almost two weeks. Her 15-year-old mother Reem was in labour for more than two days but could not get medical care due to the fighting raging outside. The second she was strong enough, her and her mother Masa fled with several other members of their family.
“Her aunt and I went out and tried to find a midwife even though the fighting was still going on," Reem's mother Masa said.

"We tried, but we could not find anyone. We were starting to really worry, but somehow we eventually found a nurse who was able to come to the house to help. Even with this, things were very difficult. Reem was in labour for two whole days. There was no clean water, no electricity, and no medicine. She was very sick and weak after the birth."

Masa said Reem's delivery was "very hard, very hard indeed," but there was nothing they could do because of the fighting.

"We wanted to leave Mosul,” she said.

“My brother has been killed and we wanted to go but Reem was too weak, so we stayed for five days and then we left and walked to safety. Thank god Lubna is healthy but we are very worried about her and that she will get sick in a place like this.”

Save the Children has said that most people are relocated quickly, but with thousands arriving every day and more than 320,000 people displaced since the Mosul offensive began six months ago, families, many with young children, are falling through the gaps.

Food and medical supplies in the city have been dwindling for months, with many new arrivals saying they had completely run out of food and water.
Since the offensive began, the aid agency has distributed 3,740 newborn care packages, which have reached almost 11,500 infants.

UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has called on Iraqi and US-led coalition forces "to undertake an urgent review of tactics to ensure that the impact on civilians is reduced to an absolute minimum."

The civilian death toll is unknown, but the World Health Organisation estimates that more than 6,000 people have been hospitalised since the Mosul offensive began. At least 29 percent of those injured are estimated to be children under the age of 15.

'We treat people, we don't judge them': US medics care for all in Mosul battle

'We treat people, we don't judge them': US medics care for all in Mosul battle

13 April 2017 (Middle East Eye)

MOSUL, Iraq - It is early morning when soldiers rush in a screaming patient, cutting into the calm of a coffee break among the American volunteer doctors. With his face torn and teeth pulled, the young man looks more dead than alive. His cheeks are covered with soil, suggesting to medics he had been buried alive, while red marks around his neck suggest he has been choked.
In this makeshift clinic on western Mosul's front line, the sounds of bombs and bullets are never far away as the medics work on the next case.

Their brief moments of rest last only until the next ambulance or armoured vehicle unloads its charges, be they children ripped apart by shrapnel or soldiers shot or blasted in battles with Islamic State. This is the second time the doctors have seen this patient. The 18-year-old, Hamid, is known to all.

"He's been badly tortured again, that's clear," one of the volunteers says. "By whom? God knows."
Carrie Garavan, the lead doctor examining the patient, says the man shakes uncontrollably when electronic equipment is brought near him. "He associated them with electric shocks," she says.
This is the reality of this "stabilisation point" in western Mosul, run by the 'NYC Medics' NGO in conjunction with the World Health Organisation. It is a crucial first line of care for those wounded in a battle that has become bogged down in the old city area. Armoured cars are useless in the narrow streets, and the threat of IS snipers looms large as they move like ghosts between buildings still filled with civilians.

Iraqi forces fight in the narrow streets of old city (MEE/Marielle van Uitert)

But not all here think Hamid should be helped - there are suggestions he is an IS fighter.
Peter, a translator born in Mosul, storms out of the treatment room in anger.
"The guy keeps lying," he says. "First he says he has escaped IS, then that he's not. Then he makes up another story." 
"He is 100 percent IS," Peter claims, before stating: "This man should have been killed." 
"He killed many people himself. He had already been judged and condemned to death."  

But for the American medics, their only job is to save lives, not decide who is worthy of aid.
"Whatever crimes he has committed, he is still a human being in great pain who needs medical treatment," says Kathy Bequary, the executive director of NYC Medics. 
"If we didn't treat this patient like any other, regardless of his background, then what's the difference between IS and whoever did this to him?
"An Iraqi officer once told me they were not fighting only for their country, but for humanity. 
"This is exactly the battle we're all fighting here: the battle for humanity."
Garavan adds: "We are here to treat people, not to interrogate or judge them."

An injured soldier is brought to the NYC Medics clinic in Mosul (MEE/Marielle van Uitert)

Ali is not the first torture victim to arrive at the clinic. There have been others dumped at its doors.
"One of our first cases were a husband and his pregnant wife who had escaped IS," says Bequary.
"The couple had been tortured by IS when they tried to escape. She lost her baby."

It is an IS terror tactic that has become industrialised in Mosul. During an operation last week, Iraqi soldiers uncovered a range of torture instruments in a house that had served as an IS prison.
Abu Adnan Hazem al-Tai is sitting next to his house opposite the prison, while his granddaughters are running around. "We have never been inside, but we saw prisoners being brought in every day," he says. "IS was everywhere. My son-in-law was shot when they knocked at his door, just because he wasn't quick enough to open it."

Blood marks the spot where an IS fighter lies dead in western Mosul (MEE/Marielle van Uitert)

A few blocks from the clinic, a small convoy of exhausted refugees includes a grandmother, toddlers and a cage full of chicken. The refugees have walked for hours under cover of night to escape the grip of IS. 
Pick-ups packed with others are driving in the direction of nearby Hammam al-Alil camp.
In the same street, people are pushing carts piled with furniture in opposite direction: their area has been declared safe, so they are heading home today.
Hussein Hamid Harbi, 25, a member of the Iraqi police's Rapid Response Division, has lost several friends in previous battles against IS in Ramadi, Fallujah and Tikrit. This time it is different.

"These are the last hours for IS, in Iraq and hopefully in the world," he says.
But Ibtisam Saleh, a 40-year-old refugee, fears a bout of revenge after the defeat of IS. She is sitting with some other women in a courtyard, drinking tea and eating bread.
"They will accuse one another: her son was an IS member, his brother fought with a Shia militia... I am afraid that it is only going to get worse here."
That fear has crystallised in the stabilisation centre manned by NYC medics. Hamid has been patched up, despite the protests of the local translator.

A poster of the Ali al-Sistani, the highest Shia power in Iraq, in majority-Sunni Mosul (MEE/Marielle van Uitert)

Hamid does not say who inflicted his injuries, but what is known is this: he was escorted by two Iraqi policemen the last time he left the clinic.
"He was supposed to be transported to another, more advanced hospital for further treatment," says Garavan. 
"All we know is that he never arrived. And that we now have him here again, buried alive."
This time, the doctors decide to provide their own escort in the ambulance. 
"The patient begged us to not leave him alone."

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Animals abandoned in Mosul zoo given new home in Jordan shelter

Animals abandoned in Mosul zoo given new home in Jordan shelter

April 12, 2017 (NRT English)

AMMAN — The only two surviving animals in Mosul's zoo arrived at their sanctuary in Jordan, after a long journey out of Iraq.
Lola the bear and Simba the lion lived in a once-peaceful animal park that has been destroyed by months of fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Mosul.
The two animals were rescued by Four Paws International, an animal welfare group, and taken on an arduous journey to Jordan. After spending 12 days traveling and waiting at the Iraq border to process their paperwork, the animals arrived at the Jordan shelter. Hesitant at first to leave their travel crates, the psychological scars of war and sense of fear was evident on the animals. When Lola eventually stepped out in to her new enclosure, she spotted an apple on a tree branch and takes a bite - a sure sign of good things to come.

"The animals that came here today were in Mosul, they were there during the war (and spent) 60 days without food or water. All the animals in the Mosul Zoo have died, these are the final two survivors, and they were at the brink of death. We took care of their rehabilitation and their nutrition over the past two months," said veterinarian at Four Paws Amir Khalil, who oversaw the transportation of the animals from the zoo to their new home. Lola led a very different life back in Mosul, holed up in a tiny, dirty cage where she was so malnourished, it is a wonder she is still alive.
With the help of Four Paws, she is now looking much healthier.

"Their health is much better than it was, they were at the brink of death. Now they are able to move, they have gained weight. Physically, they are doing better. Psychologically, there was sound of gunfire and weapon launchers, the animals did not understand. Humans have the ability to flee during war, or the army can transport them to tents," added Khalil. The other survivor is Simba the lion, who was apprehensive about coming out of his crate - not a usual trait in the majestic lion but after months of war in Mosul, the damage is clear with the look in his eyes.

"Many cases, if there are natural disasters, or things like this, like a war, is that of course it's a really big impact on humans, but the animals are many times, they are forgotten, and we are trying to give this picture back to the world, that also animals are suffering during the war, and we are trying to help these animals. Of course it is really bad for the humans, but we want to give also the other picture of the story," said Juno Fanzine, who is looking after the animals on behalf of Four Paws.
Simba nearly starved to death back in Mosul, had it not been for donations from locals who lived near the zoo and a volunteer-led animal rights group, who came to feed him.
People living nearby said they had been bringing leftovers to animals, but it was not enough as many people struggled to find food of their own.

But now Simba has a new home and that means new hope, though it may take time for him to settle in to his new surroundings. The rehabilitation program at the centre will involve hand-feeding them through the fence, hoping to nurse them back to good health. After an adaptation period, they will be transported to larger enclosures. And Four Paws are optimistic that the animals will thrive in their new environment.

ISIS uses remittance companies to obtain money, says Iraqi judicial council

ISIS uses remittance companies to obtain money, says Iraqi judicial council 11 April 2017 (NRRTV)     SULAIMANI – The Iraqi Higher ...