Friday, 31 March 2017

VIDEO: The joy and sadness of returning to Mosul

The joy and sadness of returning to Mosul

31 March 2017 (BBC)

I've dreamed of going back to Mosul for so long.
The city where I was born and grew up has always occupied a special place in my heart and it's full of happy memories.
My Mosul was a city of green and shady streets, with beautiful, old houses overlooking the River Tigris.
It was a city of books with a famous university where my father taught and I studied.
It was a place where Iraqis came for a break, to breathe its cool, fresh air and visit its world-renowned archaeological sites.
I hadn't been home for more than a decade, and knew that after two brutal years of occupation by so-called Islamic State (IS), Mosul had suffered much damage.
But it was still a shock to see it for real.

Heartbreaking homecoming

As we drove through the streets where I played as a child, I found myself fighting back the tears.
Familiar places had become almost unrecognisable.
Everywhere you looked there were bullet-scarred walls and bombed-out buildings.
The roads were littered with twisted metal and burned out cars.
It was a heartbreaking homecoming.


Civilians in Mosul ‘between a rock and a hard place’

Civilians in Mosul ‘between a rock and a hard place’

Posted: 31 Mar 2017(Church Times)

THE UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, speaking on Tuesday, de­­­plored Islamic State’s (IS’s) use of human shields in Mosul as “cow­ardly and disgraceful”. Hundreds of civilians have been killed in the past month. He urged the coalition that is seeking to recapture the city not to fall into this “trap”, but to reconsider its tactics.
Amnesty International has ac­­cused coalition forces of failing to take adequate precautions to pre­vent civilian deaths.

Information verified by the UN shows that at least 307 people were killed, and another 273 wounded, between 17 February and 22 March. In the most deadly incident, on 17 March, an air strike hit a house where, witnesses say, IS had forced at least 140 civilians to serve as human shields. Official figures in­­dicate that at least 61 people were killed. On Saturday, the US Central Command admitted that its air­­strikes had hit this area, and said that a formal assessment had been opened to determine the facts. The US-led coalition, which includes the RAF, estimates that, between Au­­gust and March, at least 220 civil­ians had been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes.

A senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International, Donatella Rovera, who carried out field invest­iga­­tions in Mosul, said this week that evidence gathered on the ground “points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside.
”The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the of­­fensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to pre­vent civilian deaths, in flagrant viola­tion of inter­national humanit­arian law.”

The use of civilians as human shields by IS amounted to a war crime, she said, but this “does not absolve Iraqi and coalition forces from their obligation not to launch disproportionate attacks”.
Civilians have been advised by the Iraqi government not to leave during the offensive.
The UNHCR representative in Iraq, Bruno Geddo, said last week that people were “stuck between a rock and a hard place”. Those who tried to flee the bombing risked being shot by extremists, but life was becoming impossible owing to a lack of food, clean water, or fuel. Up to 12,000 people a day are arriving at a UN reception centre outside the city.
The conduct of air strikes in such an environment, Prince Al Hussein warned, “may potentially have a lethal and disproportionate impact on civilians”.
At least 400,000 people are thought to be trapped in western Mosul, with about 2000 IS fighters.
The organisation IHP, which fac­ilitates the donation of medicines between health-care companies and aid agencies, is highlighting a “crit­ical shortage of essential medicines” in Iraq, and appealing for financial donations.

A pharmacist at West Erbil hos­pital, the nearest to Mosul, re­­ports that he has received no new medi­cines in two months.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

VIDEO: The Mosul Barber

Battle for Mosul: Soldiers facing most brutal street fighting since WWII to defeat ISIS

Battle for Mosul: Soldiers facing most brutal street fighting since WWII to defeat ISIS

ISIS has had 30 months to build up its defences in the narrow streets of the old town of West Mosul, said Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.
Fanatics from ISIS, also known as IS or daesh, are packing frontline buildings with civilian hostages wired up with explosives.

He said: “Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter."There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul. ISIS put those bodies in there, not the coalition.” He added: “To put things in a little perspective for you, this is the most significant urban combat to take place since World War II; it is tough and brutal. House by house, block by block fights.”

Gen Townsend said there was “a fair chance” that a US airstrike killed up to 200 civilians in West Mosul earlier this month.

He said multiples air strikes were carried out in that area and said: “My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties.”
But he said an investigation is underway amid concerns that the civilians had been used as human shields by ISIS and that the building had been rigged with explosives.
He said: “What I don’t know is, were they gathered there by the enemy? We still have some assessments to do. I would say this -- that it sure looks like they were.”

He added: “The fact that the whole building collapsed actually contradicts our involvement. The munition that we used should not have collapsed an entire building.”
Gen Townsend said that ISIS are resorting to increasingly desperate tactics, shooting civilians that try to flee the battle zone.

He said: “In the past few days, we have observed civilians fleeing from ISIS held buildings. We have heard reports that ISIS was shooting civilians trying to leave Mosul.
“The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service reported they found two houses rigged to blow and filled with hostages, one - 45 in one house, 25 in another.”
“They managed to defuse the explosives and release the hostages without harm.”
He added: “Although our partners in the coalition have made mistakes that have harmed civilians, we have never targeted them, not once.
“On the other hand, the savages that are ISIS deliberately target, terrorise and kill innocent civilians every day.”

Gen Townsend gave his briefing in Baghdad as RAF warplanes continue to pound IS positions around Mosul in support of advancing Iraqi and Kurdish troops.
Iraqi Special Forces and police today fought ISIS militants near the city’s landmark al-Nuri mosque where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a caliphate nearly three years ago across territory controlled by the group in both Iraq and Syria.

Mosul shows difficulty of removing militants from urban area

Mosul shows difficulty of removing militants from urban area

BAGHDAD — As the fight for the Iraqi city of Mosul drags on, many might ask: Why has it taken the combined militaries of the United States and Iraq backed by an international coalition more than two years to dislodge a relatively small force of militants lacking heavy weaponry?
Donald Trump raised the question during his campaign, promising to turn up the heat against the Islamic State group if he became president. Now the growing controversy over the high number of civilian casualties believed caused by recent U.S. airstrikes has touched on a major part of the answer: The militants are mingled among tens of thousands of civilians in Mosul and are willing to take the population down with them.

Inevitably, the more force brought to bear to crush the fighters, the greater the danger civilians will be killed.

To avoid that, strikes must be more surgical and more cautiously used, and the battle turns to street-by-street fighting where the technological edge is often neutralized. Minimizing civilian deaths is more than just a humanitarian concern: Heavy bloodshed can fuel public resentments that push some to join militant groups.

Another factor is whether the extremists have support from at least part of the population. It's even further complicated if they can claim to be fighting for national liberation — as, for example, with the Hamas group in its battles with Israel in Gaza. In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group clearly holds the population hostage in many cases, but it also seeks to sway some support by claiming to defend Sunnis against a mostly Shiite force from Baghdad.

After a March 17 explosion that residents say killed at least 100 people in Mosul, the U.S. military acknowledged an airstrike was involved. But the top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said investigations may reveal a more complicated explanation, including the possibility that militants rigged the building with explosives after forcing civilians inside. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said recent civilian casualties in Mosul were "fairly predictable" given the densely populated urban neighborhoods the IS fighters are defending against Iraqi troops.

Over the past 2½ years, Iraqi forces backed by U.S. special forces and coalition airstrikes have managed to push IS out of most of the territory they overran in the summer of 2014 — retaking three major cities and numerous smaller communities. The fight for Mosul, launched in mid-October, has been the longest battle yet. With each fight, the Islamic State group has adapted its use of civilians as human shields, creating increasingly deadly battlefields.

In Tikrit and Sinjar, IS let the population flee early on, allowing Iraqi and coalition forces to liberally use airstrikes and artillery to retake the areas by the autumn of 2015.
IS then tightened its grip on other cities and towns. It locked down Ramadi in western Anbar province with checkpoints to prevent civilians from fleeing. Only those with serious health conditions were allowed out — and only if they left behind a relative, property or thousands of dollars to guarantee their return.

After Iraqi forces punched into Ramadi, fleeing IS fighters forced civilians to go with them to thwart airstrikes. Moving west along the Euphrates River, Iraq's military responded to the use of human shields by largely empting towns of their populations as they retook territory. The massive displacement resulted in humanitarian crises. Thousands were left without shelter and little food or water in desert camps.

So the government changed tactics. It asked civilians to stay in their homes, a decision that was controversial with commanders faced with clearing militants from dense residential areas.
In Mosul, an estimated 1 million people were in the city when Iraqi forces breached its eastern edge. IS fighters fired from the rooftops of homes where civilians sheltered, targeting those who fled with mortars and gunfire. In denser neighborhoods, even precision munitions inflicted heavy casualties. In western Mosul, IS fighters forced civilians into explosives-rigged homes, then took up positions on the roofs, Iraqi and coalition officials said.

A similar battle looms in the Islamic State group's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
There, the militants have taken even greater pains to trap the population. Land mines and checkpoints circle the city. And all the men have been ordered to wear the jihadis' garb of baggy pants and long shirts, making it difficult to distinguish militants from civilians.
Here are other cases where advanced militaries have wrestled with the issue.


The U.S. has faced backlash over civilian deaths in nearly all its recent conflicts — Korea, Vietnam, and more recently Iraq and Afghanistan. Public fury in Iraq and Afghanistan over deaths in airstrikes and at checkpoints and abuses by U.S. troops has been a major factor shaping the evolution of U.S. tactics since 9/11. The response has been to turn increasingly to special operations forces and armed drones and to work with local fighters.
In Iraq from 2005 to 2007, the more secretive elements of U.S. special operations, led by Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, combined intelligence with night raids to capture or kill insurgents, including the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This — and the enlisting of Sunni tribesmen to fight the insurgents — proved far more effective than conventional forces kicking in doors.
Still, drone strikes that kill civilians continue to raise an outcry in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere.
And militants also evolve. Al-Qaida in Iraq was all but extinguished by 2009, but a kernel of militant leaders who met in U.S.-run prisons transformed it into the Islamic State group by exploiting Iraq's Sunni-Shiite divide, which worsened after U.S. forces left in 2011.


The Russian assault on the Chechen capital, Grozny, in 1999 and 2000 was the centerpiece of President Vladimir Putin's drive to end Chechen separatist ambitions.
It was also a case of a military — and government — that seemingly cared little about how much destruction it wrought to crush the rebels. Russian forces unleashed heavy bombardment with artillery and airstrikes that leveled apartment buildings and even city blocks. Most of the population had fled but a significant number remained. There was an international outcry over the brutality, but public opinion in Russia strongly backed the assault, giving Putin freedom of action.
It took just four months before Putin declared Grozny liberated in February 2000. Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed, and the United Nations called Grozny the "most destroyed" city in the world.


The Israeli military knows the challenges of fighting an enemy embedded in a civilian population. Wars against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006 and against Hamas in Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2014 killed hundreds of civilians. Israel blames its adversaries for the tolls, noting they used civilian areas to hide or to attack from.
The Israeli military says it takes numerous steps to minimize civilian casualties. It drops leaflets telling residents to leave. It makes phone calls and sends text messages to inhabitants of targeted buildings and sometimes strikes homes with nonexplosive shells as warnings to evacuate.
According to the United Nations, 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed during the 2014 Gaza fighting, including 551 children and 299 women. Israel disputes these figures. A U.N. report accused both Israel and Hamas of committing possible war crimes.


As France's empire was coming undone in the 1950s, it fought its most brutal battle for one precious piece of turf: Algeria, colonized beginning in 1830. The war to hold onto Paris' crown jewel lasted seven years, 1954-1962, and left scars that have yet to heal.
The conflict, which began as an insurgency and continued with urban terror-style attacks on the French, was ferocious. Some Algerian lawmakers still call for reparations. The toll remains debated, but a leading French historian says 350,000-400,000 Algerian civilians died.

Friday, 24 March 2017

US-Led Air Strike On Islamic State In Mosul Has Killed Over 200 Civilians

US-Led Air Strike On Islamic State In Mosul Has Killed Over 200 Civilians

The civilians caught up between the ISIS and the coalition forces are once again facing the brunt of the fight to retake the city from the Jihadists.
The US led coalition has in the recent days stepped up air raids in Mosul, the de facto capital of the Islamic State's caliphate.
But it has taken a toll on the civilians. According to local reports over 200 civilians have been killed in Mosul in the air strike.
Rudaw, a Kurdish news agency reported that 137 people – most believed to be civilians – died when a bomb hit a single building in al-Jadida, in the western side of the city on Thursday. Another 100 were killed nearby.
The Mosul Eye, an activist group from the city monitoring the conflict, reported that an airstrike from an unidentified plane set off the explosives that had been laid by ISIS.

Iraqi Civil Defence claimed they pulled 136 bodies from the rubble in the New Mosul district of the city.
The US has acknowledged the civilian deaths and the military is conducting its own probe of the incident.

The United Nations estimate that some 600,000 people remain in the parts of western Mosul held by ISIL, including 400,000 who are "trapped" in the Old City under siege-like conditions.
As the number of people fleeing the conflict increase UN has warned that civilians are at risk whether they choose to flee the city or remain in their homes.

US opens formal investigation into civilian deaths in Mosul

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military has launched a formal investigation into what role the U.S. played in the deaths of dozens of civilians in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this month, amid warnings from a top American general that the dense urban fight is making it harder to avoid killing innocents.
Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, told Congress that Islamic State militants are exploiting American sensitivities to civilian casualties, using people as human shields to avoid being targeted by strikes.
"As we move into the urban environment it is going to become more and more difficult to apply extraordinarily high standards for things we are doing, although we will try," Votel said during a House Armed Services meeting.
Republican Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, a retired Air Force colonel, questioned whether the high standards are "ridiculous," because they allow militants to use civilians as a defense against airstrikes so they can "live to fight another day." The result, she said, is just more innocent deaths.
Votel said the investigation will look at what Islamic State militants did to contribute to the civilian deaths in the March 17 strike. He and others have said the munitions used by the U.S. that day should not have taken the entire building down, suggesting that militants may have deliberately gathered civilians there and planted other explosives.

He said U.S. investigators have visited the site and that the review is looking at 700 weapons system videos over a 10-day period to help understand the effects of the munitions used. They also will review intelligence provided by the Iraqi forces.
Senior U.S. military officials said they have now seen several instances where IS militants have gathered a large number of people and held them captive in a building, and then put a sniper on the roof to fire at U.S. or allied forces in an effort to draw an attack on the building, and possibly kill dozens of innocent civilians. The relatively new tactic has been used in the West Mosul fight, said the officials, who were not authorized to discuss the military operations publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

In one instance, the officials said a precision U.S. strike took out the sniper but left the building intact. Later, they said, civilians were seen being freed from the building. The officials said the U.S., as a result, has to carefully calculate what types of munitions to use in order to limit destruction. At times the military will decide to wait rather than execute an immediate strike.
They noted, however, that if U.S. or partner forces are being attacked, the U.S. will launch strikes to defend them. And that decision can be made quickly by commanders on the ground, closer to the fight.

Votel also told the committee that nearly 800 Iraqi security forces have been killed and 4,600 wounded in the increasingly brutal battle to retake Mosul from IS extremists that began last fall.
Under questioning from lawmakers, Votel repeated U.S. military assertions that the military rules of engagement have not been changed or relaxed to allow for more civilian casualties. He said the only change authorized late last year was to allow certain combat decisions be made by U.S. commanders closer to the fight as the battle moved into the densely populated areas of the city. That decision removes a layer of approval that was previously needed, but still requires the commander on the ground to go through the same analysis and consideration of civilian casualties that has been done all along.

The senior military officials said that before the decision-making was streamlined, there were almost daily instances when the delay in getting approval for a strike allowed a target to get away.
Votel and other military officials have, in recent days, acknowledged that the U.S. probably played a role in the civilian casualties. Residents and outside groups have said the explosion killed at least 100 people.

Amnesty International on Tuesday said the rising death toll suggested the U.S.-led coalition wasn't taking adequate precautions as it helps Iraqi forces try to retake the city.
The fight for western Mosul began in February after Iraqi security forces pushed IS out of the eastern side of the Tigris River city. In recent weeks, IS defenders have packed into neighborhoods with narrow streets and trapped civilians.
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander of American forces in Iraq, said Tuesday that the increase in civilian casualties has been "fairly predictable" given the heavily populated urban neighborhoods. He said the battle in the western portion of the city will be the toughest phase of the war, adding, "it is there that the enemy has invested two-and-a-half years of defensive preparations."

Iraqi officials say ISIS bomb was source of Mosul civilian casualties

April 3rd, 2017 (USMC)

Iraqi officials believe that the March 17 blast in Mosul that killed 61 civilians — including many women and children — was caused by the blast of an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria vehicle-borne explosive device.
Saeed al-Jayashi, a spokesman for the Iraqi military, said an examination of the site shows that the building was not hit by a coalition airstrike.
“There was no hole in the building,” Jayashi said to reporters traveling with Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Speaking through an interpreter, Jayashi said the coalition airstrike hit a building where ISIS fighters were holed up. “The strike was 100-percent accurate and it was correct,” Jayashi said.
The Iraqi spokesman said that Iraqi forces were coming under strong fire from a building and they properly identified the source of the fire and called for an airstrike. Next to it was another house and between them was a vehicle.
The strike came in and hit the target, but it also set off the bomb-laden vehicle. The ISIS bomb was packed with explosives and took out the whole block, said Iraqi Air Force Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim, a defense ministry spokesman. He said the size of the weapon the aircraft dropped could not have caused the kind of damage Iraqi troops found at the site.
When Iraqi forces approached the site, the house had pancaked down on the occupants. “Usually when there is an explosion, the explosion will throw everything to the outside,” Jayashi said. “This we did not see. There was no explosion from the inside out.”
People in the neighborhood told Iraqi forces that ISIS forced people into the house and made them stay, he said.
Nearby, Iraqi forces rescued 26 women and children who had been forced to stay in another house laden with explosives. “We got to them at night, but the house was contaminated with IEDs and we could not get them out,” Jayashi said. “We came back in the daytime to defuse the explosives and rescue them.”
Jayashi said that while Iraqi investigators have a lot of information, they are still working to uncover the complete truth. But, he said, everybody in Iraq understands what ISIS is doing in Mosul — the terror group is sowing fear and killing innocent civilians.
The spokesman quoted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who said, “There is no value in victory if we are not saving people’s lives.”
Fighting in the city increases the danger of civilian casualties, but Iraqi forces are taking casualties themselves rather than cause casualties among their fellow citizens, Jayashi said.
He said the investigators will submit their full report to the prime minister soon.

UPDATED: Al-Sadr wants mobilization forces disbanded after Mosul

UPDATED: Al-Sadr wants mobilization forces disbanded after Mosul

Baghdad ( Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called upon the government on Friday to disband paramilitary forces fighting Islamic State militants on its side after the end of operations in Mosul.
Addressing supporters during a protest in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square, Sadr called for disbanding al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units), an alliance of Shia paramilitary groups formed in 2014 to combat IS, which also won government recognition in November as a national armed forces under the prime minister’s command.
He said the law passed to recognize al-Hashd makes Iraq a country “under the rule of militias”.
In his speech, Sadr said he had received death threats from “many parties”, which he did not name, urging his supporters to keep their protests peaceful if he is assassinated. “I am not going to appease an occupier, a sectarian or a partisan,” he said.
Sadr also threatened that his followers would boycott the upcoming local elections, slated for September 2017 if the current formation of the electoral commission is maintained. The panel’s formation was the main trigger of earlier protests by Sadr’s supporters in February, which tuned violent leaving five dead.
Sadr’s parliamentary bloc has recently boycotted meetings by the country’s leading Shia political alliance, the National Iraqi Alliance, for allegedly ignoring a proposed political settlement and reform project submitted by al-Sadr.
Al-Sadr has been a central player in the political and militancy scene in Iraq, and had for sometime, following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, been branded an enemy to the United States, being an ardent opponent to foreign military presence in the country.
His settlement proposal, besides providing for U.N.-sponsored elections and sureties for minority rights, conditioned withdrawal of foreign, especially American, troops from Iraq.

Exhausted, covered in mud with nowhere to go: This is what it's like to flee the fighting in Mosul

Exhausted, covered in mud with nowhere to go: This is what it's like to flee the fighting in Mosul


A steady stream of trucks and buses roll up outside the main entrance of Iraq's Hammam Al Alil camp. Clutching a few bags and suitcases, families pile out.
"From one area to the next there are just bodies everywhere!" a woman who has just arrived from west Mosul said.

"As soon as you leave the house you see air strikes."
Another man spotted his relatives once he got off the bus and started sobbing.
"We haven't seen each other in three years," he said tearfully, hugging his cousins.
"I escaped through the drains," he said. "The family is all together now. Thank God."
It is cold, wet and miserable here.
Families sit around in the mud, exhausted from their journeys and unsure where to go next.

This past week saw the highest number of people flee Mosul since the battle to retake the city began last October.
More than 10,000 people a day are streaming out of the west of City, where Iraqi forces are battling Islamic State, only to find that the nearest camps are now full.

Hammam Al Alil camp seeing thousands of arrivals

The Iraqi army said it received 15,000 people at the Hammam Al Alil transit point in just 10 hours on Thursday.
"We are building another 5,000 tents for another 5,000 families," UNHCR's head of Mosul operations Hovig Etyemezian said.
"It is under construction now. We hope in a few days that camp will be open. So now all the new arrivals are sent to the east of Mosul or to other camps."
In the confusion of fleeing Mosul, many were separated from their relatives.

Crying women were waiting by the gate of the camp registration office, desperate for news of their missing loved ones.
"He was wearing blue trousers. They tell me he was checked in and is here in the camp somewhere," said Um Mohamad, who was searching for her 15-year-old son.
"He's my only son," she said, sobbing. "He's sick. He can't walk properly."
Thirteen-year-old Ahmad had been separated from his parents.
"My uncles are here in the camp but I can't find them," he said.
"I think my mum and my dad are in Makmour. Can you take me there?"
An aid worker from the NGO Save the Children took the young boy away to help trace his family.

400,000 people could still be trapped in the old city

The UN is warning that "the worst is still to come" in Mosul, with 400,000 civilians still trapped in the old city.
"People have started to burn furniture, old clothes, plastic, anything they can burn to keep warm at night, because it is still raining heavily and the temperatures at night in particular drop significantly," said Bruno Geddo, chief of UNHCR Iraq, after touring Hamman Al Alil camp.
"The more you go without food, the more you become panicked and the more you want to run away.
"At the same time it (the outflow) is increasing because the security forces are advancing and therefore more people are in a position to run away where the risk is likely more mitigated."

Mr Geddo said the international community needed to urgently increase its funding for the humanitarian response for Mosul.
"We have made an appeal for $37 million because we need to scale up," he said.
"There is a sense of urgency. At any time we could have a mass outflow. Because 400,000 people could still be trapped in the old city. The moment the corks pops we could receive tens of thousands within the space of 48 hours."

‘Worst is yet to come’ in Mosul, warns UN

‘Worst is yet to come’ in Mosul, warns UN

GENEVA/MOSUL: About 400,000 Iraqi civilians are trapped in the Daesh-held Old City of western Mosul, short of food and basic needs as the battle between the militants and government forces rages around them, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday.
Many fear fleeing because of Daesh snipers and land mines. But 157,000 have reached a reception and transit center outside Mosul since the government offensive on the city’s west side began a month ago, said Bruno Geddo, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) representative in Iraq.
“The worst is yet to come. Because 400,000 people trapped in the Old City in that situation of panic and penury may inevitably lead to the cork-popping somewhere, sometime, presenting us with a fresh outflow of large-scale proportions,” he said.
The government halted offensive operations on Thursday morning due to cloudy weather, which makes it difficult to bring in air support. “Dozens of Daesh snipers are still positioned on rooftops of the Old City high buildings, posing a threat to our soldiers,” he said.
Terrified Iraqi families fleeing fierce fighting are drugging their children with sedatives or taping their mouths shut to prevent their cries alerting Daesh militants as they try to escape, aid workers said.
Hala Jaber of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said men caught trying to leave would be shot while women were sometimes tied up and left outside in the cold as a warning. Militants are also using civilians as human shields.
“Families often leave at night and in the early hours of the morning and have to walk with their children. The kids get tired and if they cry it’s very difficult,” Jaber told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Irbil, east of Mosul.

‘Aleppo boy’ versus ‘Mosul girl’: How the Western MSM peddles war propaganda

‘Aleppo boy’ versus ‘Mosul girl’: How the Western MSM peddles war propaganda

23 Mar, 2017

The world recently got a crude lesson as to how the Western media machine manipulates its news coverage to fit NATO's regime-change agenda.
During two parallel global events - the Russian-backed liberation of Aleppo and the US-backed liberation of Mosul - viewers witnessed the tragic circumstances of two children, with two radically different media spins.
By now, many people are familiar with the story of Omran Daqneesh. He is the Syrian boy from Aleppo who - seated alone in the back of an ambulance, covered in dust, blood and the flood of flashbulbs - became the Western media's stock image whenever it wished to portray the "Russian-backed Syrian regime" and its effort to free the city of Aleppo from the yoke of terrorism.
Omran's "haunting" photograph, splashed across every front page of every Western newspaper on August 18, 2016, accompanied a self-righteous Western jeremiad against "Russia and the Syrian regime," as opposed to the bloodthirsty terrorists who held the residents of this northern Syrian city hostage to their insane ideology for years.
Would the Western media really stoop so low as to use the image of an injured child as a propaganda device to damage Russia’s efforts in defeating such deranged characters?
Unfortunately, that appears to have been the case.

No time or space for 'Mosul girl'

While much of the developed world knows of ‘Aleppo boy’ Omran Daqneesh, how many have heard of an equally tragic story involving a five-year-old girl named Hawraa, the sole survivor of a US-coordinated airstrike on her home in Mosul?
The girl, with burns over much of her body, is now battling for her life in the field hospital of Iraq Special Operations Forces. No place for a five-year-old child, that's for sure. Yet this tragic story has gone conspicuously missing from the West's "heroic" Mosul narrative.

On March 20, RT sent a formal request to CNN, BBC, MSNBC and Al Jazeera, inviting them to participate in a panel discussion that would cover a number of issues with regards to media coverage in Aleppo and Mosul. RT also requested they provide a comment regarding the way they decide whether an airstrike that affects civilians would be given full-scale, rolling coverage (like in Aleppo) or not (like in Mosul), and whether or not they intended to use any of the available video that points to civilians being killed as a result of coalition airstrikes.
BBC refused to provide a panel participant or comment, CNN, MSNBC and Al Jazeera did not respond, while Sky News said they “had no time.”
Assuming that all life is precious - and perhaps more so when we are talking about innocent children – it would certainly seem appropriate for the Western media to allocate the same amount of news line to Hawraa from Mosul as they did with Omran from Aleppo.
However, not only has there been no mention of the little girl from Mosul in the Western mainstream media, the entire Battle of Mosul seems to be nothing more than a mirage in the desert.
On Tuesday, I scanned the CNN website for any news on Mosul or the little girl in critical condition from yet another errant airstrike. In the course of my search, I learned that the US was imposing an electronics ban on flights from 10 major airports; I learned about FBI Director Comey’s insomnia-curing brief to Congress; I even learned about a turtle named 'Piggy' that died after ingesting 915 coins. But I failed to find a single word about an American war zone in Iraq that has forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee, while leaving one little girl in very serious condition.
On Wednesday, I continued my search. This time I expected some news on a US air raid that destroyed a school – not in Iraq, but in Syria. According to local reports, a US fighter jet hit a school in the south of Al-Mansur, where at least 50 families from Raqqa, Palmyra, and Aleppo had been taking shelter. The school building itself was completely destroyed. Is this what they mean by "imperial overreach?"
It's not all bad news, however. After all, the United States has promised to launch an investigation against itself regarding the misguided bombing mission. Any guesses how that trial will turn out?
Eventually, my luck improved, but for a different reason. For I had accidentally unearthed perhaps the largest nugget of raw propaganda ever found in North American territory. Admittedly, the piece was buried deep, at the very bottom of the page, under a banner entitled, I kid you not: “In case you missed it.” Pay dirt! I clicked on and was taken to an article entitled, 'Return to hell: Finding the family who sheltered us in Mosul,' by one Arwa Damon.
In the first few pages, Damon talked about her harrowing experiences riding shotgun with a unit of Iraqi counter-terrorism troops as they advanced street-by-street against ISIS in eastern Mosul. So far, so good.
But then the realization that I was feasting at the MSM trough arrives like a trumpet blast from the netherworld, as Damon details an altogether unlikely reaction that some anonymous Iraqi civilian allegedly provided gratuitously following a US aerial bombardment that erroneously, tragically, stupidly killed 9 people.
Wait for it, dear reader, it's a gem.
“Abu Yassin's son was mistaken for a fighter and killed as he stood on the roof of the family's home. (CNN photojournalist) Brice captured the piercing wail of a woman ringing out as his son's death was discovered...
The airstrike that hit the house next door while we were here killed eight civilians, Abu Yassin says. Only three survived: two teenagers and a little boy, orphaned in the raid.”
Here it comes, the North American mother-lode: "A relative who's now caring for the little boy says he hasn't been able to tell him that his parents and sisters are dead. His voice shakes with emotion as we talk on the phone. But he wants to make one thing clear - he forgives the person who hit the house, saving his anger for ISIS.”
Hold on, the spin cycle is just revving up.
"I know that if the pilot, no matter where he is from or his religion, knew that there were two families in the house they would not have taken the strike, or they would have used a smaller rocket," he says.
A smaller rocket!? Please tell me I didn't just read that!
Since I have absolutely no problem playing plot spoiler of atrocious fiction, Damon proceeds to wrap up this propagandist puff piece with an Iraqi father who asked her to take his newborn baby to America. You know, where the streets are paved in 24-karat gold bricks, the poor drive around in Cadillacs and crime only happens to bad people. You can’t make this stuff up. Or then again, I guess you can.
And no, not a word on the fate of Harwaa from Mosul, but I’m sure if CNN covered her story the family members would be forgiving coalition fighter pilots for placing her in critical condition as opposed to a rubble-strewn grave.
By chance, could this media blackout on all bad news out of Mosul have anything to do with that pithy adage that goes something like, "victors write history, while victims go missing from the headlines?"
Incidentally, where is the Iraqi equivalent of the White Helmets, the Western-backed non-profit rescue service that has been accused of actually staging videos and manipulating news reports to drum up support for the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels?
Sounds like something creative enough to deserve an Oscar, no?
Or how about the Iraqi equivalent of the pompous-sounding Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a one-man operation headquartered in a distant land called the United Kingdom?
RT paid a visit to the two-bedroom Coventry home of Syrian immigrant Rami Abdel Rahman, which has been the Observatory’s base and the source of information for major mainstream media on anything Syria-related. To put it mildly, we were not impressed.

Nobody quite knows how Rahman keeps tabs on what is happening on the ground in faraway Syria, but information just keeps magically flowing… usually in tragic style and with little or no sourced material.
Unfortunately, while odd fellows like Rahman are always on hand to report on events in Syria, as was the case with 'Aleppo boy,' news of Harwaa's severe injuries and tragic loss from Mosul did not disappear from the Western news cycle, because they never existed there in the first place.
Harwaa's tragic story underscores yet another pithy adage, which must be defeated by the free flow of information: "The first casualty of war is truth."
The free world can no longer endure such a casualty when so many young, innocent lives are at risk, while much of the world remains ignorant of such horrors.

Mosul: "They're all putting their lives at risk to flee a city under siege."

Mosul: "They're all putting their lives at risk to flee a city under siege."

22 Mar 17

On the 19 of February, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened a field trauma hospital with surgical capacity in a village to the south of Mosul. It is composed of two operating theatres, one intensive care unit, an emergency room, an in-patient ward and other necessary support facilities.

War-related trauma

The MSF team working in the hospital, composed primarily of Iraqi surgeons, doctors and nurses, only has the capacity to operate on the most severe life
Mental healthcare for people fleeing Mosul
threatening cases, known as “red cases”; those that can wait are referred to hospitals further afield.
Since it's opening, the facility has received more than 915 patients. Of these, 763 suffered war-related trauma, 190 of whom were classified as ‘red’ cases in need of urgent lifesaving surgery and 421 of whom were classified as ‘yellow’ cases and stabilised before being referred to other hospitals in the region.
More than half of the wounded were women (241 patients) and children under the age of 15 (240 patients).
Below are first-hand accounts from two MSF surgeons working in our trauma centre:

staff story: dr reginald

The following testimony is from Dr Reginald, a 66-year-old Belgian surgeon, after his last shift at MSF’s field trauma hospital a few kilometres south of Mosul. He describes his six weeks near Mosul as the toughest situation he has experienced during his long MSF career.
I’ve been through many other wars; Syria, Liberia, Angola, Cambodia, but I’ve never seen something like this. In the operating theatre every case we receive is severe and almost every day we have to deal with mass casualties.
Our patients can be of any age, any gender and suffering from any sort of war wound: sniper attack, mortar shelling, airstrike, landmine, and other explosions. They are all putting their life at risk to flee a city under siege.
The weather was bad, grey and cloudy with some rain so we received 20 war-wounded patients. But, when weather conditions are good we receive huge influxes of wounded men, women and children. When it’s cloudy or rainy we receive fewer people. Now, we look at weather forecasts to best prepare ourselves and to anticipate mass casualties.

The emergency field hospital has 8 emergency beds, 4 for severely wounded and 4 for moderately wounded. Here, the medical teams discuss ahead of a mass casualty simulation.

On one sunny afternoon, the ambulances started to arrive, one after the other. Usually, the stabilisation posts close to the fighting alert us when they are referring stabilised patients to our centre. But that day, due to the chaos, it didn’t happen.
It was really tough. We had to transfer some of them because we didn’t have the space to treat everybody, but alongside the Iraqi doctors and nurses, we worked around the clock. It was sunny but we never saw the sun as we operated on one person after another until 5 am in the morning. At the end we had received around 100 patients, we were exhausted. That day confirmed that our surgical unit was a frontline surgical facility and we have since opened a second operating theatre to increase our capacity.

As I finish my six-week assignment, I’m shocked by the number of families dismembered by this war. So many mothers and fathers begged us to save their son or daughter, as they were their only family members left alive.
I’m impressed by the strength of the Iraqi people and by the generosity and hard work of our Iraqi colleagues.
We couldn't do this work without them.

Staff story: dr ahmed

Testimony from Dr Ahmed*, an Iraqi orthopaedic surgeon who has worked for MSF since 2008 and has been working in MSF’s field trauma hospital a few kilometres South of Mosul since mid-February 2017.  
Yesterday morning we received a family of four: a mother, a father and their two small boys. They had all been wounded by a mortar grenade. The mother and father arrived dead so we worked around the clock on the two brothers. But the head wound of the smallest boy was too severe so he passed away and only managed to save the nine-year-old. I wonder how he could survive and how he will survive. From his whole family, he is the only one left.
If I could, I would take a picture for each of the patients I treated to tell their stories and to remember them. Here I operate only on red cases but I would like to do more.
Dr ahmedmsf orthopaedic surgeon
Then, yesterday afternoon we received another boy, this time a ten-year-old. He arrived with his left leg almost amputated by a mortar shelling. We went straight to the operating theatre but he lost a lot of blood on the way to our hospital. For two hours we did orthopaedic surgery, then my colleague did a laparotomy for another hour but during the night he died.
We try to do everything we can, but sometimes it’s not enough. If I could, I would take a picture for each of the patients I treated to tell their stories and to remember them. Here I operate only on red cases but I would like to do more. I’d also like to follow the yellow cases, the ones we refer to other facilities. I would like to take care of them, to do all I can to help these people who have been through such terrible suffering.

Privately funded

In Iraq, MSF relies on more than 1600 international and Iraqi staff for its medical and humanitarian work in 10 governorates. In order to ensure its independence, MSF does not accept funding from any government, religious committee or international agency for its programs in Iraq, relying solely on private donations from the general public around the world to carry out its work.

What Next for Iraq after the Battle of Mosul?

What Next for Iraq after the Battle of Mosul?

For the last few months, Iraqi army, Iraqi Kurdish forces and other anti Islamic State militias, Turkish forces and allies from across the Western Europe and North America are engaged in the struggle to liberate Mosul from the hands of the Islamic State. Numerous people across the world are glued to their newsreels in the hope of some clear new information on the current conflict in Mosul. The lack of clarity on what is happening on the ground, moreover, is potentially creating anxiety and worry that could be avoided, especially at a time when the conflict is resulting in a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions.

It is a bloody and complex state of affairs. Islamic state forces are digging deep and fighting hard. In the last few weeks the Americans have taken a more proactive role in the light of policies introduced by President Trump. Civilian casualties are rising while no real gain is being made in vanquishing these resilient and battle hardened mélange of fighters from all over 100 countries. There is an air of inevitability in relation to the imminent collapse of the Islamic State, as the fight for the end of the world is currently being played out in Mosul. While there is every interest in wanting to see an end to this conflict, the question remains: What is next for Iraq after the battle for Mosul?
One immediate consideration is that as the Islamic State collapses in Iraq, existing areas of Islamist violence across the world, in particular in Sudan and Nigeria, may become the new centers of even more pernicious violent extremism. There are also ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan involving remnants of Al-Qaeda that could transform into something even more sinister than their present forms.

The so-called caliphate will no longer exist as an entity; however, it could re-emerge in the imaginations of some radical Islamists in some other mutated form. The idea of a caliphate reflects apocalyptic notions but if this is now to be suspended, it has the potential to weaken the very idea of the caliphate for some, while for others it will be seen as a temporary experiment that has failed. It could therefore lay the ground for its potential replacement, namely caliphate 2.0.
Mosul has been razed almost to ashes and it will take years to rebuild it structurally. Culturally, there may well be more challenges than opportunities because of deep ethnic, sectarian and religious tensions that Saddam Hussein kept a firm but artificial lid on. Iraq has been lacking effective leadership since the fall of Saddam Hussein. The period post-2003 invasion of Iraq, however, led to the need for massive reconstruction. But before this could be completed, the Islamic State emerged in 2014, creating new conflict zones on top of existing instabilities. The opening up of this Pandora’s Box has reopened deeply held old wounds that will not disappear in a vacuum.

As Mosul collapses, foreign fighters may try to blend into a wider Iraq, aiming to remain underground for as long as possible. Alternatively, they will try to get into Europe. Undoubtedly, they can easily slip into Syria, which remains in a state of civil war, allowing these fighters to operate in conflicts there. Some fighters remaining in Iraq may go to the mountains and engage in asymmetric warfare. Though the Islamic State fighters will no longer have a space in Mosul, wider Iraq is still a country on the edge and it seems that the Syrian conflict will continue as well.

There is also the immediate impact on neighbors such as Turkey, which sought to distance itself from the Syrian conflict at first, and then engaged in it at a time when there was little alternative option. The powder keg that is the so-called Kurdish issue, however, could well escalate as the claim for autonomy among Kurdish groups in Turkey invariably rises. The Turkish AKP government has been seen to have failed in identifying solutions to the domestic Kurdish problem, but the Syrian conflict has also created further fissures between Kurds in Turkey and the AKP government.
The fact of the matter is that the battle for Mosul is not a local issue. Global actors, including Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Russia, as well as British, French and American forces, are all involved in this heady mix. Geopolitical, energy related as well as wider international forces are important to appreciate. The intersection of external and internal political and economic interests is being played out in their starkest and most absolutist terms in the context of this ensuing battle. It is a proxy for a much more complex set of interests competing for hegemony. As has been the case since the outset, no one element will achieve outright victory. These interests, however, will do all they can to ensure that no one victor claims the spoils in this great game, which means the perennial rerunning of this horror nightmare.

As Mosul returns to civilian control, great attention needs to be paid to ensure that a political and economic vacuum is not replaced with further strongman politics in the immediate period, which will mean even more chaos for Iraq in the short run and potentially beyond. Western powers may well regard their abilities to manage these local patriarchs as a particular strength of diplomacy, but there is a risk if there is no long-term planning and greater consideration of the extent of the challenges ahead. The international community will have to pay considerable attention to what will unfold over the next few weeks and months. While it is the battle for the end of the world, it may well spark new conflicts or re-ignite existing ones in other parts of the world.
The battle for Mosul is not the end but, quite possibly, the beginning of the next waves of conflict that will face Iraq, a country that has been destabilized and devastated at every level. In the ninth century CE, Baghdad was essentially the centre of the civilized and intellectual world. Iraq contains some of the oldest cities and civilizations the world has ever known. The country stands before us now as a shadow of its former self, but with significant international will and a great deal of local courage, the hope is that it can ascend again. Until that happens, however, the black of darkness overwhelms any possibility of light and hope.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

American medics try to heal Mosul

American medics try to heal Mosul

March 21, 2017

When an elderly man arrived at a front line clinic this week, right leg burned while fleeing an airstrike, an American medic took one look and knew he needed to get the patient to a hospital fast.
“If he doesn’t go, he’s going to lose his leg,” said Tom Ordway, 32, a firefighter from Lake George, N.Y., volunteering in the war zone with the nonprofit NYC Medics. Ordway called for the Iraqi commander supervising his trauma station in the carport of an abandoned house minutes from the front line on the besieged city’s west side.

Maj. Tarek Gazali of the Iraqi Emergency Response Division explained to the burned man that they would transfer him to a hospital run by another U.S.-based nonprofit on the city’s east side for treatment. But they had to act fast, he said, or doctors might have to amputate his injured leg.
The man’s family fetched clothes, then helped medics and Iraqi forces load him into an ambulance.
“We are like one team,” the major said, praising American medics who built their first war zone trauma unit in a matter of weeks. “They came all this way to save lives and help the people.”

As Iraqis face the daily horrors of improvised explosive devices, mortar rounds, snipers’ bullets and airstrikes, nonprofit civilian groups from the U.S. and Europe are attempting to provide critical medical assistance. The medics said the task is often overwhelming, as they’re called to treat not only injured soldiers and civilians but families living in surrounding neighborhoods who face shortages of medication, food and water. Ordway, who arrived last week, had never served in the military, never been to the Middle East before. He was surprised by how welcoming west Mosul families were to strangers, despite shortages and the fighting nearby.

“It’s surreal to see kids growing up here with bombs going off and they don’t know any different,” he said as he prepared to treat patients at the clinic this week.

The Mosul offensive started in October, and the field clinic opened as fighting reached the west side in February. Since then, teams of eight to 10 medics have staffed it in 18-day rotations, treating several hundred soldiers and civilians, according to Kathy Bequary, NYC Medics executive director.
All of the medics must be certified to practice in the U.S. or Canada. They receive added training from the group on working in a conflict zone, Bequary said. As troops advanced, so did they, moving from house to house to remain within a five-minute ambulance ride of the front line.

“It maintains that golden hour,” said Bequary, referring to the time doctors have to save those with traumatic injuries. “Intervening in that golden hour saves lives.” Recently, medics were able to stabilize a 5-year-old girl shot in the stomach by an Islamic State sniper as she fled west Mosul, and the girl is recovering at a nearby hospital, Bequary said. The girl’s mother, who was also shot by a sniper in the leg as they ran to safety, was also recovering.
Last week, the medics were excited after successfully treating a father and two children injured by mortars as they fled. Then another father arrived with a 12-year-old girl who had been shot in the chest by militants as she slept.

“She was dead on arrival,” Bequary recalled. “All we could do was clean her up and make her presentable. And then we had to tell the father.” They treated the father too, although he had only minor injuries. “All you can do is support the family members. But sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough,” Bequary said.

The same day, the clinic came under attack by mortars and had to relocate. It reopened a few days later.
Eunice Allen, 38, a nurse who came to volunteer from Hawaii, said she wishes more people in the U.S. understood how many Mosul civilians are caught in crossfire. One day this month, they treated 29 injured civilians.
“War is changing. It blows my mind that they’re targeting people as they’re running away. They’re either walking through land mines or getting shot,” Allen said as she sat outside the clinic with fellow medics awaiting patients this week. “What happens next?”

Allen wondered where neighboring families were getting food, water and other staples. Iraqi troops police the streets. They don’t allow cars or motorcycles in, so it’s difficult for civilians to import staples. That can pose challenges for the medics. Dr. Cornelius “Woody” Peeples, 50, an emergency physician from Bend, Ore., struggled to treat a diabetic woman last week seeking help with an infected toe.

“This is a good example of what we don’t have the capabilities to deal with,” Peeples said as he examined the woman inside the field clinic. He would clean the wound and write the woman a prescription for diabetes medication. But the nearest pharmacy was in another town, and even if the woman managed to find transportation, given local shortages, the pharmacy might not be able to fill it.

Why Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri matters

Why Mosul’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri matters

21 March 2017

Iraqi government forces are closing in on the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul. With its leaning minaret, it is one of the most famous landmarks in the Old City. But it is also of great symbolic importance in the government's battle against the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), which seized control of the city in June 2014.

The mosque is where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made a rare public appearance the following month and gave a speech proclaiming the creation of a new "caliphate". The Great Mosque is named after Nur al-Din Mahmoud Zangi, a Turkic ruler of Mosul and Aleppo who ordered its construction in 1172, two years before his death. Nur al-Din is famous for mobilising and unifying Muslim forces to wage jihad, or war in the path of God, against the Christian Crusaders.

During his 28-year rule, Nur al-Din captured Damascus and laid the foundations for the success of Saladin, who served as his commander in Egypt before founding the Ayyubid dynasty and retaking Jerusalem in 1187. Nur al-Din is also revered by jihadists for his efforts to make Sunni Muslim orthodoxy prevail over Shiism.

Despite its connection to such an illustrious figure, all that remains from the original mosque is the leaning minaret, sosdme columns and the mihrab, a niche indicating the direction of Mecca.
The cylindrical minaret is covered with elaborate brickwork inspired by Iranian designs and topped with a small, white-plastered dome. At the time of its completion, the minaret was 45m (150ft) high. But by the time the Ibn Battuta visited Mosul in the 14th Century, the minaret was already leaning significantly and had acquired its nickname - "al-Hadba", or "the humpback".

The cause of the tilt is not fully known. According to local tradition, the minaret bowed to the Prophet Muhammad as he passed overhead while ascending to heaven, ignoring the fact that he died centuries before it was built.

But experts believe it is caused by the prevailing north-westerly winds, the effect of the sun on the bricks on the southern side, or the weak gypsum used to hold the bricks together. Bombs that struck Mosul during the Iran-Iraq War also broke underground pipes near the base of the minaret, allowing sewage to collect in pools and weaken the foundations. In 2012, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) calculated that the minaret was leaning 2.5m (8.3ft) off the perpendicular axis, and warned it was suffering from serious structural weakness and at risk of collapse.

On 2 June 2014, the agency announced that it had begun a conservation programme with the Nineveh provincial government that was aimed at stabilising the minaret.

But later that week, deadly clashes erupted in Mosul as militants from what was then known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil or Isis) launched a surprise assault. After overrunning the city, they swept southwards towards the capital Baghdad, seizing control of much of the provinces of Nineveh, Salahuddin and Diyala within a matter of days.

On 12 June, militants summarily killed the imam of the Grand Mosque, Mohammed al-Mansouri, for refusing to join them, according to the UN. At the end of June, Isis formally declared the establishment of a "caliphate" - a state governed in accordance with Sharia by God's deputy on Earth, or caliph. It named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph Ibrahim and demanded allegiance from Muslims worldwide. The group renamed itself Islamic State, dropping the mention of Iraq and the Levant.

On 4 July, Baghdadi delivered a Friday sermon from the pulpit at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri - his first public appearance in many years.Dressed in a black robe and black turban - a signal that he claims to be descended from the Prophet Muhammad's Quraysh tribe, a crucial qualification for the office - Baghdadi said he had reluctantly accepted the title of "commander of the faithful".

"God, the Great and Almighty, has bestowed upon your mujahideen brothers the grace of victory and conquest, and has enabled them to do that after long years of waging jihad, showing patience, and fierce fighting against the enemies of God," he added. "They have hurried to declare the caliphate and empower an imam. This is the duty imposed on the Muslims."

Echoing the inaugural address by the first caliph, his namesake Abu Bakr, Baghdadi stressed that he was "not the best among you", adding: "If you see that I am right, help me. However, if you see that I am wrong, advise and guide me."

Mosul residents said the congregation were ordered to attend the Friday service, searched thoroughly on arrival and told where and how to sit. And at the end of July, residents complained that IS militants had attempted to blow up the Hadba minaret as part of an effort to destroy shrines and tombs revered by Muslims or non-Muslims that the jihadist group considers idolatrous.

Two residents said that when militants arrived at the Great Mosque carrying high explosives, a crowd rushed to the courtyard and linked arms to form a human chain around the minaret. The militants reportedly backed down and left once the witnesses warned the fighters: "If you blow up the minaret, you will have to kill us too."

The residents were sure the militants would return, but the minaret is still standing as Iraqi police units advance towards it as part of an offensive to retake Mosul that was launched by the government in October 2016.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Islamic State Media for the Battle of Mosul (14 March 2017)

Islamic State Media for the Battle of Mosul (14 March 2017)


Suicide Bombers

Abu Abdul Rahman al-Baghdadi

Abdul Aziz al-Jafifi executed an Ishtishadi operation in West Mosul.

Amaq Statements

Islamic State claims suicide attack in Western Mosul

Airstrikes & artillery shells kills 30 and wound 58 civilians in West Mosul.

Suicide attack against police In Al-Naby Shet area of Mosul

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 ...