Scot braves bombs as he becomes first MP to visit war-torn Mosul
IN A remarkable visit not without its dangers, a Scottish MP has become the first member of the Westminster Parliament to visit the war-torn Iraqi city of Mosul.
Roger Mullin, SNP MP for the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath constituency, visited the city as part of a small delegation whose mission was to gain a better understanding of the dangers posed by landmines and other improvised explosive devices (IED’s) that the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group has deployed across much of Mosul and beyond.
Mr Mullin also spent time in Iraqi Kurdistan on behalf of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.
There he met leaders of the three main Kurdish parties to whom he extended an invitation to visit Westminster and Scotland in October.
“I came to get a better understanding of things on the ground,” said Mr Mullin who until recently was the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Explosive Weapons.
“We all hear in the media about what it’s like in Mosul but it’s only when you get there do you fully realise the incredible resilience of ordinary people and the colossal threat they now face because of hundreds of thousands of IED’s that have been planted by IS across the city.”
Wearing protective body armour and escorted by security officers from the Optima group, an organisation that specialises in IED and landmine clearance, Mr Mullin spoke exclusively to The Herald while en-route into Mosul. The journey by road involves passing through checkpoints controlled by Kurdish peshmerga fighters, the Iraqi Army and their allies the Shiite militia Hashd al-Shaabi. On entering east Mosul the small convoy in which Mr Mullin was travelling skirted a huge crater left after an attack by an IS suicide bomber just two days before. Inside Mosul, Mr Mullin was shown the ruined university and other sites where IED and mine clearance teams will take on the daunting task of removing the countless lethal devices that litter the city. He said: “These weapons pose a massive threat, there are hundreds of thousands of them across the city in houses, on the sides of roads and many are quite sophisticated in that they might look like children’s toys making youngsters especially vulnerable.”
Speaking of the specialist teams working to clear the devices the MP said it took remarkable skill and bravery to do the job.
He expressed his surprise too on hearing that such is the industrial scale on which IED’s are manufactured by IS, that some even have their own quality control markings.
He said: “The notion that a conflict like this can be resolved simply by traditional military means is wrong, when the military have gone away from here there is going to huge quantities of the detritus of war and IED’s.”
As part of his visit the MP also met representatives of the three main Kurdish parties the KDP, PUK and Gorran (Change ) party in the Kurdish controlled city of Erbil.
For some time now relations between many of Iraqi Kurdistan’s political parties has been fraught and talk of a referendum on independence later this year has taken on a new urgency because of the Iraqi Army’s assault on Mosul in which Kurdish forces were initially involved in the early stages.
“I was told before I came here that there would be an interest in Scotland and in our own political experience, and even though I was told that, I was surprised with the degree of familiarity with the Scotland situation and very heartened with the degree of sympathy towards Scotland and the desire to talk to me as a Scottish MP.”
Collectively the Kurdish parties have agreed to come to Scotland in October as part of a UK visit and will attend the SNP party conference.
Getting the Kurdish parties to agree to the visit is something of a diplomatic achievement given recent difficult relations between them.