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.

Packed Iraq morgue reveals toll of Mosul conflict

Packed Iraq morgue reveals toll of Mosul conflict

April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

QAYYARA, Iraq (Reuters) - The stench hits you long before you reach the morgue where the latest casualties of war between Islamic State militants and Iraqi forces are kept.
Doctor Mansour Maarouf dons a surgical mask as he approaches the morgue refrigerator and pauses before pulling open the door to an icy blast. "In the name of God," he says out of respect for the dead.
Inside, around two dozen corpses lie on the floor: some in body bags, several wrapped in blankets and a few so torn to pieces they come in sacks.
Nearly all of them are victims of the ongoing battle to dislodge Islamic State militants from Mosul, around 60 km further north. On the deadliest day so far, 21 bodies arrived at the hospital in the town of Qayyara.

The morgue gives a sense of the heavy toll the conflict is taking on civilians, but also highlights the practical challenges of dealing with the dead when infrastructure is ruined and administration has collapsed. Staff at the hospital, which is run by aid group Women’s Alliance Health International (WAHA), purchased the cable connecting the morgue fridge to the power supply themselves, and space is limited.

"They (the Iraqi health ministry) have promised to provide us with shelves to increase the capacity," said the doctor. Until recently, the only place in the province authorized to issue death certificates was the department of forensic medicine in west Mosul, which remains under Islamic State control.
That meant the dead had to be driven hundreds of kilometers to the cities of Tikrit or Erbil and often got held up at checkpoints on the way, if not turned back.
To resolve the issue, the Iraqi government has now authorized the hospital in Qayyara to issue death certificates, except when the victim’s identity or cause of death are unclear.
In those cases, the body is transferred to a new mortuary on the eastern side of Mosul, which is under the control of Iraqi security forces.

There, an autopsy is conducted if necessary, and the body is buried in a numbered grave so it can be found in future should someone come searching.
"We wait for a period (before burying the body), depending how full the fridges are," said Dr Modhar Alomary, who is in charge of the morgue, the sound of outgoing artillery in the background.
Alomary declined to say how many bodies he had received.


It might seem that Alomary's workload would decrease once the battle for Mosul is over, but he expects the opposite. That is when the task will begin of uncovering the mass graves where Islamic State threw its opponents after executing them. A sinkhole south of Mosul believed to be the largest site may contain as many as 4,000 bodies, according to Human Rights Watch.

One worker at the morgue knows the scale of Islamic State's two and half year killing spree better than most. He was an employee at the morgue in Mosul when Islamic State overran the city in the summer of 2014 and kept working there until just over one month ago.
In that time, "huge numbers" of bodies passed through the morgue, he said, many of them civilians, former policeman and ex-soldiers killed by the militants. "Sometimes we got 20-25, 50 (bodies in a day)."

The militants, who assumed control of hospitals across Mosul and appointed an "Emir of Health", did not allow the morgue workers to conduct autopsies on their victims.
As for Islamic State's own dead, the morgue worker said he was forced to fabricate the cause of death on the certificates of Iraqi fighters slain in battle, such as “car accident”.
That, to him, was an indication the militants anticipated defeat and wanted to make life easier for the families of its Iraqi members after Islamic State.
Death certificates were not issued for foreign fighters because their only identity was a nom de guerre, he said.

During the battle for Mosul’s eastern half, the morgue worker said he had received the corpses of 72 militants in a single day, estimating a total of 2,000 had passed through in the three months it took Iraqi forces to rout them.

Iraqi forces are now struggling to dislodge Islamic State from a few remaining districts in the west of the city, and the morgue worker said comparatively few dead militants had been brought in up until the point he left: "The number of civilian casualties is greater," he said.
Many civilians killed in Mosul have been buried in gardens by relatives who were not able to reach a graveyard during the fighting and now want to dig up their loved ones and give them a proper burial.
Two men came to ask Dr Alomary what they should do with the remains of several relatives who were among dozens of civilians killed in an air strike by the U.S.-led coalition on the western Mosul Jadida district last month.

"We buried them by the side of the road and want to bring them here," one of the men said to the doctor, who advised him to wait for Iraqi forces to finish clearing the rest of the city.
The bodies must also be dug up to get an official death certificate, which will enable victims' relatives to claim compensation from the government.
But unless the authorities keep watch, people could take advantage of the chaos to fake deaths -- whether to escape justice, or simply start a new life.

VIDEO: Teen Emotionally Shattered by Mosul Fighting

Teen Emotionally Shattered by Mosul Fighting

April 12, 2017 (MSN)


VIDEO: Mosul survivors describe ISIL cruelty

Mosul survivors describe ISIL cruelty

2017-04-10 (MSN)

Iraqi forces are slowly gaining ground against ISIL in Mosul, as their efforts now focus on taking back the western part of the city. Many people from recaptured areas have shared their stories of the harsh conditions they faced under ISIL.

Life in Mosul under ISIL: an education system in ruins

Life in Mosul under ISIL: an education system in ruins

April 12, 2017 

Beneath an image of a quill, ink-pot and scroll of parchment on the cover of a grammar textbook is a sinister picture of fighters manning sub-machine guns on desert front lines. Another shows a stack of books, above which stands a masked fighter brandishing a rocket-propelled grenade and holding up the one-finger salute that ISIL co-opted as one of their emblems.

Independent, intellectual thought had no place under ISIL rule in Mosul. "This was the [ISIL] education system," Arabic language teacher Nabir, 36, told The National in newly-liberated east Mosul, flicking through a textbook, its pages dotted with miniature Kalashnikov logos. "IS destroyed all our textbooks and printed their own."

Nabir points out highlighted quotations from prominent Islamic scholars relating to jihad, and another that encourages young men to fight with ISIL in Fallujah and undertake suicide-bombing operations.
"I had to teach everything in this book, even though the purpose of it was pure brainwashing and encouraging young people into the same thinking as ISIL," he says, shaking his head.

He explains that, after ISIL completely changed Mosul’s education system in 2015, teachers – most of whom disagreed with the new curriculum – stopped turning up for work but were soon hunted down in their homes. Anyone who refused to return to their teaching position was thrown into jail.
Although teachers were forced to continue working in Mosul’s schools and colleges, students were not obliged to attend classes and Nabir says he generally faced rows of empty desks.
"From the time ISIL changed the education system, installing their own curriculum and printing their own textbooks, 90 per cent of people stopped letting their children attend school because they were being taught to fight, to kill and to become monsters, so only ISIL’s own children turned up," he says.

"There used to be between 30 and 50 people in a class but, under ISIL, I only had four or five students per class." Student Abdulrahman, 19, recalls that his secondary school, which formerly had 700 pupils, dropped to as few as 30 after ISIL introduced its curriculum in September 2015. "Nobody wanted to study their rubbish so we all stayed at home but, with no school, TV or internet – which ISIL banned – the boredom was unbearable," he says. "And now, after liberation, I’m back in the 11th grade, studying the same stuff as I studied in 2014."

The few civilian children who did still attend Mosul schools stopped going after ISIL demanded fees. With most salaries unpaid for two years, few families had any income and were scraping by on savings, so they could ill-afford the charges anyway. "It was ridiculous. Kids had to pay to go to school while we were forced to teach for free," Nabir says. "Of course I kept my sons at home and taught them everything I could but most Mosul children have been without any education at all for more than two years." Maintaining Mosul’s education sector was part of a veneer of normality which ISIL attempted to preserve in Iraq’s second-biggest city, glossing over an increasingly brutal rule where corporal and capital punishments were routinely meted out in public.

The medical sector was deemed one of the most vital to preserve and so pharmacy and medical students were forced to continue class attendance despite their curriculum being altered.
"They supplemented our studies with books about their religion and instruction on what we should believe and how we should behave," says Nora, 22. "Actually, many pharmacy students converted and joined ISIL. Some of them were from very good, well-educated and wealthy families but their parents couldn’t control their children."

Staff in Mosul University’s medical department were also forced, on pain of death, to stay in their posts. "After ISIL came, we stopped going to work but they forced us to return by threatening to hang anyone who didn’t go, especially medical staff and lecturers," says university professor Nazir, 62. "All the medical staff were afraid, so we went back to work."

He explains that, when Iraqi forces launched the Mosul offensive in October, ISIL ramped up the pressure. Even as bombs and mortars fell across east Mosul – ordnance which left the city’s university in ruins – medical staff were summoned to work.

"They tried to make us treat injured ISIL fighters but I refused, telling them I was only a teacher, not a practitioner," Nazir says. "For three years we survived like this under ISIL." Walking through the burnt-out remains of his home in west Mosul, which ISIL commandeered to use as a makeshift field hospital and then set ablaze before fleeing, he says: "This destruction is nothing really, compared to what we experienced under IS. We survived at least, and we say thank God for our lives."

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Pentagon struggles to explain civilian casualties in air campaign against Islamic State

Pentagon struggles to explain civilian casualties in air campaign against Islamic State

April 11, 2017 (Washington Post/Chicago Tribune)

The Pentagon has struggled in recent weeks to explain what lies behind a surge in reported civilian casualties in its air campaign against the Islamic State, fueling speculation that the new Trump administration is pursuing policies resulting in a greater loss of life.

Military officials insist there has been no significant change to the rules governing its air campaign in Iraq and Syria, and instead attribute the string of alleged deadly incidents to a new, more intense phase of the war, in which Islamic State fighters are making a final stand in densely populated areas such as the Iraqi city of Mosul.

But some in Iraq and Syria are left wondering whether the higher death count is a product of President Donald Trump's bare-knuckle military stance and his suggestions that the United States should "take out" militants' families.

The recent incidents, and the attention surrounding them, have generated concern within the military that the strikes have undermined the United States' ability to fight the Islamic State.

"It does have a negative impact on our image at least throughout the region and the world, and it's probably detrimental to the strength of our coalition. And that's exactly what ISIS is trying to target right now," Col. Joseph Scrocca, a military spokesman, said in a recent media briefing. ISIS is an acronym for the Islamic State.

The military's difficulty in accounting for the civilian casualties - exacerbated by classified regulations and a complex process for airstrikes - has allowed the Islamic State to advance its own version of the events. The group has accused the United States of killing hundreds of residents of Mosul and decried what it has said are "continuous American-Iraqi massacres" in that city and elsewhere.

"We're ceding space to the adversary, who wants to create the perception of disregard for civilian life," said David Deptula, a retired Air Force general who heads the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Incidents that have been brought up by rights groups include a March 17 strike on a crowded building in Mosul that may have killed at least 140 people and a March 16 strike in the vicinity of a Syrian mosque. Both attacks are under investigation.

The surge in reported casualties in March was so dramatic that it prompted Airwars, a respected watchdog group, to suspend its tracking of Russian air operations in Syria - known to take a devastating toll on civilians - to focus on U.S. actions.
Since U.S. jets dropped their first bombs on the Islamic State in 2014, U.S. military leaders have called the air war in Iraq and Syria the most meticulous ever in avoiding unnecessary loss of life.
But the Pentagon has scrambled to address questions about the recent spike in civilian casualties.
That difficulty was apparent last month when, in the space of three days, senior military officials gave conflicting accounts about basic aspects of the air campaign.
First, a three-star general in Iraq said that there had been "relatively minor adjustments" to rules governing air operations against the Islamic State. The next day, his four-star boss told Congress there had been no change.

Amid the confusion, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq and Syria weighed in the day after and tried to split the difference, telling reporters that while rules had "technically changed" last year, the moves "in no way reflect a lower tolerance for civilian casualties."
These military officials were referring to changes made late last year, in the final weeks of the Obama administration, when lower-level officers in Iraq were granted power to approve strikes in certain situations. But even senior officers appear to disagree over whether that decision constituted a change in the rules of engagement.

Discussion of U.S. air tactics takes place as the new administration reviews the American approach to the Middle East, including the larger conflict in Syria. Late last week, the Pentagon launched a missile strike on a Syrian military air base in retaliation for a chemical attack on Syrian civilians.
Since taking office, Trump has directed the military to accelerate the militants' defeat and to examine whether regulations that exceed the requirements of international law should be lifted. The Trump White House also is reexamining restrictions the Obama administration put in place last summer as part of its effort to avoid civilian deaths. Those rules produced frustration among some military leaders, who complained of a slow operational tempo and missed opportunities against militants.
The stakes of those deliberations can be seen in Syria, where U.S.-backed forces are bearing down on Raqqa, the Islamic State stronghold. In Mosul, Islamic State fighters routinely fire from inhabited houses and appear to be positioning civilians to expose them to coalition strikes.

Military officials "may be struggling in part because the reality of the situation is that there will be a higher level of civilian casualties, and sometimes that really will be the outcome that military planners have to accept," said Ryan Goodman, a professor at New York University Law School and a former Pentagon official. "But that's very hard to explain to the public."
Officials are also having trouble addressing the casualties because the military's rules of engagement, known as ROE, are classified, meaning that military personnel can give only general assurance that no significant guidelines have changed.

But military experts point out that while the ROE, which guide when and how force may be used, are set by military leaders, they are subject to interpretation by personnel on the ground.
"The thing about the ROE is that they're living documents," said Jason Lyall, an associate professor at Yale University who has studied military operations in Afghanistan. "They're not just black and white."

The confusion over the ROE is reminiscent of what took place in Afghanistan in 2010, when Gen. David Petraeus sought to counter confusion about whether he had altered an unpopular set of ROE or just standardized implementation of those rules across the battlefield. Similarly, it has been challenging for the military to explain how last year's decision to allow lower-level commanders to authorize strikes hasn't made the air operations more risky for civilians.

That is in part because the process for approving strikes is so complex and varies depending on the type of target. A strike on a religious site, for instance, would require higher-level approval. Officials also have to factor in the target's importance and location and whether a potential strike involves defense of American or allied forces. It's not clear whether the Trump administration will make adjustments to these rules. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has already sent the White House a series of requests that would give military commanders increased decision-making power in conflicts in Yemen and other areas.

Iraqis haunted by war overwhelm mental health facilities

Iraqis haunted by war overwhelm mental health facilities

April 10, 2017

Intisar Jadan Sultan, left, sits with her family in a tent at the Khazer refugee camp, in east Mosul, Iraq, on April 5. One of Sultan's sons, six-year-old Mustafa suffers nightmares, cries at the sound of airplanes and occasionally wets himself, symptoms that worsened last year when an explosion in Mosul killed his cousin and wounded his father before his eyes. (Yesica Fisch / AP)

KHAZER, Iraq – Six-year-old Mustafa suffers nightmares, cries at the sound of airplanes and occasionally wets himself, symptoms that worsened last year when an explosion in Mosul killed his cousin and wounded his father before his eyes.He was a young witness to more than two years of Islamic State rule and months of heavy fighting aimed at driving the extremists from Iraq’s largest city. Like countless Iraqis, he shows symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, an epidemic borne of years of war that is overwhelming the country’s limited mental health services.
“He wants me to always stay with him. He is afraid, he is scared of loud noises. Even when the children speak loudly he becomes scared,” Intisar Jadan Sultan, Mustafa’s mother, said at the Khazer camp for displaced people.

“Even when we arrived at the camp, he thought the fighting was still going on. He didn’t understand that everything was over. He doesn’t sleep well, he cannot relax, he screams and cries until I take him in my arms.”

Intisar said Mustafa’s problems started when the family had to flee Zumar, their hometown, three years ago, but worsened considerably when the fighting started in Mosul last November.
Mental health professionals say many displaced Mosul residents experience nightmares, anxiety, depression, aggression and irritability, all signs of PTSD, a condition that may develop as a result of exposure to serious violence.

“The rate of the population in Mosul that has been affected during this war, it must be double than in other wars,” said Dr. Karzan Jalal Shah, director of the Irbil Psychiatric Hospital. “As a result of living under IS rule for two years, not only the war, but the killings, beheadings, cutting off of hands in front of people, everyone will have some kind of psychological symptoms.”
The hospital receives about five patients from Mosul every day, and there is little it can do beyond referring them to private organizations. The hospital has only seven psychiatrists, who receive only a quarter of their salary, and little medication because of the severe financial crisis affecting the Kurdish regional government.

As a result, waiting lists are long and they can dedicate only a few minutes to each patient, many of whom never turn up again because they cannot afford to regularly travel between the camps and Irbil, an hour’s drive away. “People come until they feel better, but it takes time to treat these cases,” Shah said.
Aid organizations provide some care in the camps. Doctors Without Borders has a psychiatrist in Khazer camp four times a week and a psychosocial counselor every day, while the International Organization for Migration runs a reintegration and socialization program for children.
Mustafa sees the psychiatrist regularly, and attending kindergarten has helped. He plays with the other kids and is visibly happy in their company. His mother says he is steadily improving, but she still needs to stay with him all morning to calm him.

Because of the sensitivity of the subject, numbers are difficult to come by. Dr. Omed Qadir, senior psychiatrist in the Irbil hospital, said he alone treated over 450 cases in the camps in the last two years, including full-blown PTSD and milder cases of depression, sleeping disorders and substance abuse. Nearly 400,000 people have been displaced from Mosul and surrounding areas since last October, according to the United Nations.

“This kind of stress has a negative impact on future mental health,” Shah said. “There is no adequate mental health support in Iraq. We expect to see higher rates of suicide and self-harm, especially among children.”

Mosul Eye: A Message to Human Rights Watch

A Message to Human Rights Watch

April 11, 2017

To: Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International
Re: Provocative Assaults on the civilians at Hammam Al-Alil IDP camp
Mosul Eye observed sexual assaults committed by members of Ali Al-Akbar brigade militia, other militia members, as well as some members of the federal police and a militia known as “Fursan Al-Jubur” in the past few weeks.

Several members of those militias committed sexual assaults on young girls in Hammam Al-Alil IDP camp. They also harass and blackmail women after forcefully detaining their male relatives in a very aggressive and humiliating security check where men are separated from their families and falsely detain them with false accusations for very long hours in disgraceful conditions, subjecting children and youngsters to torturous conditions and blackmailing women as well.

We have witnesses who witnessed those heinous incidents and the necessary actions must be taken seriously and actively against the offenders and immediately stop the assaults against the Mosuli women.

Babies Starve as War Grinds on in Mosul

Babies Starve as War Grinds on in Mosul

April 11, 2017 

A nurse touches the hand of patient Iraqi girl Nawras Raed, six month, at a hospital run by Medecins Sans Frontieres in Qayyara, Iraq April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem Reuters

QAYYARA, Iraq (Reuters) - The babies cry with hunger but are so severely malnourished that doctors treating them at a hospital in Iraq would make their condition worse if they fed them enough to stop the pangs. Many of the starving infants are from Mosul, where war between Islamic State militants and Iraqi forces is taking a heavy toll on several hundred thousand civilians trapped inside the city.
A new, specialist ward was opened recently to deal with the growing number of children from Mosul showing signs of malnutrition as the conflict grinds on -– most of them less than six-months-old.
That means they were born around the time Iraqi forces severed Islamic State's last major supply route from Mosul to Syria, besieging the militants inside the city, but also creating acute shortages of food. "Normally nutritional crises are much more common in Africa and not in this kind of country," said pediatrician Rosanna Meneghetti at the hospital, which is run by aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Qayyara, about 60 km (40 miles) south of Mosul. "We did not anticipate this".
So far, the number of cases recorded is below the level considered critical but it nonetheless highlights the hardship faced by civilians who are effectively being held hostage by Islamic State.
Iraqi forces backed by a U.S.-led coalition have retaken most of the city but are struggling to dislodge the militants from several districts in the west, including the Old City.

Residents who have managed to escape say there is almost nothing to eat but flour mixed with water and boiled wheat grain.
What little food remains is too expensive for most residents to afford, or kept for Islamic State members and their supporters.


In the ward, a team of doctors monitors the babies' progress in grams, feeding them a special peanut-based paste that will gradually accustom them to eating and increase their weight.
On one bed lies a six-month-old boy weighing 2.4 kg – less than half the median weight for an infant of that age. The diminutive patients are also treated for other diseases associated with malnutrition, which weakens the immune system, making them even more vulnerable.
"It's a new thing in Iraq," said MSF project coordinator Isabelle Legall. "Most of the (Iraqi) doctors have never seen it (malnutrition)".

Part of the problem, Legall said, is a lack of tradition of breast-feeding among Iraqi mothers, who usually raise their babies on formula milk, which is now almost impossible to come by in Mosul.
Even if they want to breastfeed, many mothers find it difficult due to the physical and emotional strain of living in a warzone: "The mother is very stressed and can't find much food herself so cannot produce so much milk," Meneghetti said.
One of the mothers from Mosul told the doctors she had no option but to feed her baby sugar dissolved in water, yogurt, or a mixture of flour and water.

"All of this is because of Daesh (Islamic State)," said another mother, keeping vigil over her emaciated baby.
Some of the babies come from villages that were retaken from Islamic State months ago, pointing to a wider trend of food insecurity.


On average, more than half the patients seen in the emergency room of the MSF hospital are under the age of 15, partly because there is a shortage of pediatricians in the area, so many children are referred there. Signs on the doors of the portacabins that house different wards prohibit visitors from entering with weapons. The pediatric ward is so full there are two patients to each bed, and most of the women's wing is taken up by children recovering from war injuries such as broken limbs, burns and shrapnel. Many babies are brought to the hospital with respiratory problems such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia -– most of them from camps for the displaced, where cramped conditions enable viruses to spread.
Two children buried under blankets are suffering from birth asphyxia which occurs when a baby's brain and other organs do not get enough oxygen before, during or immediately after being born.
Meneghetti said their mothers had probably needed a surgical birth but were unable to reach a hospital so delivered at home and experienced complications. Lying listless on another bed is a boy who was wounded by shrapnel when his father picked up a box of explosives, intending to move the danger away. It blew up in his hands, wounding them both along with several other family members.
The expression on eight-year-old Dua Nawaf's face is haunting.

The girl suffered burns to the head and hands in an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition that killed more than 100 people in the Mosul Jadida district last month, including both her parents.

"The family told me this morning that she (Dua) had some problems, especially in the night, so we are organising a mental health (assessment) for her," Meneghetti said, reaching into her pocket for a balloon, which she inflated and gave to the girl.

Only the faintest hint of a smile appeared on Dua's face.

After Mosul Losses, ISIS Now Controls Less Than Seven Percent of Iraq

After Mosul Losses, ISIS Now Controls Less Than Seven Percent of Iraq


The Islamic State militant group (ISIS) now controls less than seven percent of Iraq, down from the 40 percent it held during 2014, an Iraqi military spokesman said Tuesday.
“Daesh controlled 40 percent of Iraqi land,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesman of the Joint Operations Command that manages the campaign against ISIS, told reporters on Tuesday, AFP news agency reported.“As of March 31, they only held 6.8 percent of Iraqi territory.”
The jihadi group seized the northern city of Mosul as well as Tikrit, Fallujah and Ramadi in 2014. But a coalition of forces that included the Iraqi army, Shiite militiamen, Sunni tribesmen and backed by a U.S.-led coalition have managed to take back much of the country over the past three years.
Read more: Iraqi forces close in on mosque where Baghdadi declared himself ISIS caliph
Iraqi forces liberated the western cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in June and December respectively last year and the central city of Tikrit in March 2015.

Iraqi soldiers look on as smoke rises from the Qayyarah area, some 60 kilometres (35 miles) south of Mosul, on October 19, 2016, as Iraqi forces take part in an operation against Islamic State (ISIS) group jihadists to retake the main hub city.

In October, before the fall of Ramadi, new analysis from defense consultancy IHS Janes showed that the total territory held by ISIS in Iraq and Syria fell 28 percent from 78,000 square kilometers to 65,500 square kilometers. The resulting ISIS-controlled territory represented a land mass the same size as Lithuania.

After months of fighting for Iraq’s second largest city, government forces liberated eastern Mosul on January 24, including key landmarks such as Mosul University. The renewed offensive for west Mosul, launched in February, has forced more than 200,000 civilians to flee.
Coalition and Iraqi airstrikes have resulted in scores of civilian deaths, leading to criticism from international rights groups and Russia. The coalition has opened an investigation into a March 17 strike on the Al-Jadida neighborhood of west Mosul that the U.N. said killed at least 140 civilians. The coalition says ISIS is using civilians as human shields in the city as the fighting  intensifies.
Iraqi forces are now closing in on the city’s Great Mosque, the site where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—now reported to have fled Mosul—declared himself leader in July 2014 of the group’s self-styled caliphate that stretches across the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Displaced Sudanese eye Mosul homecoming

Displaced Sudanese eye Mosul homecoming


MOSUL - They're not Iraqis but they suffered under jihadist rule just like other Mosul residents. Now they have lost everything they spent decades working for and long for their native Sudan.
Most of them moved to Iraq in the 1980s, when the country was something of an economic powerhouse and an attractive destination for many labourers from poorer countries in the region.
When the Islamic State group took over Mosul in June 2014, the city's Sudanese residents stayed. And when civilians from their neighbourhood of west Mosul fled the fighting last month, they left with them. Now they live in administrative limbo, huddled together on foam mattresses thrown on the gravel inside a huge United Nations tent at the Hammam al-Alil displacement camp south of Mosul.

"We came here to build something but now we have lost everything," said Yaacub Mohammed Adel, who is originally from Khartoum and ran a tea shop in the Mosul al-Jadida neighbourhood until mid-March this year.

"We want compensation for the property we lost... We want to go back to Sudan, but not empty-handed," he said. The western side of Mosul, including the same neighbourhood where a lot of them lived and worked, has suffered extensive damage from air strikes and shelling.
Ahmad Abdallah moved to Iraq from the troubled Sudanese region of Darfur, which has also been torn by conflict and mass displacement in recent years.

"The country during Saddam was good," said the 53-year-old Abdallah, referring to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

- 'They took pity' -

"There was work available in Baghdad, in Basra, in Mosul... It was safe. There were about 50,000 Sudanese on Iraqi soil at that time." He said that the jihadists who made Mosul the de facto Iraqi capital of their self-proclaimed "caliphate" never specifically took aim at their small community.
"In Mosul, we Sudanese were never very religious. But Daesh (IS) never even asked us not to shave, we did not have to pledge allegiance. Most of us are old, I guess they kind of took pity," the greying man explained.

"They just ignored us," Abdallah said.

Now the group of ageing Sudanese workers fear they will continue to be ignored and most of them are mulling a return to Sudan. "El-Fasher (the capital of Sudan's North Darfur province) is a thousand times better than Mosul now... In the end Sudan is my country," he said with a resigned smile. "I miss my family, it's been a long time."

Nobody in the group of around 15 has been back once since they left Sudan, and under IS rule in Mosul they could not call home because mobile phones were banned.
"When I first got out I called my family and they didn't know I was alive," said Adel. "They thought I was missing."

- Compensation or return -

Ibrahim Zakariah, from another part of Darfur, lost everything but his sense of humour in the fighting that swept west Mosul over the past two months.
"You see, I had only this shirt when I fled and I bought those plastic sandals here," he said, giving a tour of his little corner of the tent.
"But I have a room with a view of the sea," he joked, pointing to a puddle of rain water that formed overnight right next to his mattress.
He moved to Iraq in 1987 and spent several years in Baghdad's Battaween neighbourhood, which is still the capital's main hub for daily labourers from Egypt and Sudan.

He is still undecided about a possible return to Sudan and clings to hope that a promised meeting with a Red Cross delegation could yield some compensation.
"Nobody helps us here and all we had is gone," said Zakariah.
"But I'm an old man, maybe I'll rebuild something in Mosul if I get a chance. We have faced many wars in Iraq. If there's another one it's OK, we are used to it."
The 55-year-old man, a white scarf wrapped around his head, said he lost touch with his family a long time ago.
"I think they are dead, I don't know. If I go back, maybe I'll stay with my sister. If she still knows who I am."

Kurdish traders, Turkish firms take over Mosul food trade

Kurdish traders, Turkish firms take over Mosul food trade

April 11, 2017

A man stands outside a shop in Zakho near the Iraqi-Turkish border, Iraq April 8, 2017. Picture taken April 8, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

ZAKHO — Trucks carrying food supplies whizz down the roads of Zakho in the Kurdistan Region, as traders in Mosul are slowly back in business after the liberation of the east side of the city. Fighting is still raging in Iraq's second largest city but just a few blocks from the frontline, on the eastern side of the Tigris River, shops and restaurants are springing back into life.
Kurdish trader Kasim Dilbrin lost everything when the Islamic State (ISIS) seized his warehouses in Mosul.

Now the militants are retreating, his business is back on track, bringing everything from baby food to flour over the border from Turkey. "We are selling 50 tonnes of flour to Mosul every week," he said, sitting in his office in the town of Zakho, on the border with Turkey. That is still a fraction of the 300 tonnes he used to sell to Mosul until ISIS arrived in June 2014 and shut down his business because he was Christian.

Under ISIS’ 2-1/2-year-long occupation of Mosul, supply routes shifted away from Turkey to Syria - particularly the militants' Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
Some Turkish goods got through, alongside produce from Syria and Iran. But larger Turkish suppliers pulled out, scared off by the closed routes and heightened security threats.
And many logistical problems remain. Only one route from Zakho is open - a 140-km roundabout route via the Kurdish town of Kalak. Traders also have to negotiate a series of often costly roadblocks.

But things are changing fast. Months after Iraq's government and its allies started an offensive against the militants, Kurdish merchants are pushing on behind them, bringing Turkish produce back along reinvigorated trade routes. "Sales have gone up by 30 to 40 percent," since the offensive started in October, said Mosleh Ismail, a dealer in Turkish honey and jam, also based in Zakho.
He sends a truck to Mosul four times a week, and has secured contracts to supply the nearby Khazer camp, home to about 40,000 displaced people.

The return of the Kurdish traders has already proved a boon for the Kurdistan Region, hit by low oil prices and the Baghdad government's decision to cut off funding after the Kurdistan Regional Government started building a crude pipeline to Turkey. And every day, hundreds of trucks cross the Turkish border, pushing to reopen markets in Mosul and beyond.

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