There were several Islamic State attacks upon east Mosul, while the Iraqi forces (ISF) were hunting down Islamic State sleeper cells. A drone hit Rashidiya in the north of the city wounding three people. Rockets hit two other neighborhoods leaving 4 dead and 12 injured. A suicide bomber was killed before he could set off his device, while another was arrested near a mosque. In the outer east three neighborhoods were closed off as the ISF conducted raids and searches looking for IS fighters. A few days ago an Iraqi general said it would take 30 days to hunt down all the sleeper cells in east Mosul. That’s yet to be seen. In the meantime IS has picked up its attacks upon the liberated half of the city with not only indirect fire, but suicide and car bombs and infiltrations as well.
IS also attacked the Hashd in the Tal Afar district out in the west. Insurgents continue to throw themselves against the Hashd in that western area with nothing to show for it except a lot of dead men.
There are huge shortages in west Mosul. Food is very scarce, but the Islamists are now demanding that the residents donate what they have or be punished. It has been reported that the IS fighters are facing the same deprivations as the public in the half of the city under its control, which explains this new policy.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a new report on abuses by the Hashd southwest of Mosul. It talked with people from five villages and used satellite photos to accuse the Iraqi forces of looting and destroying homes. 6 people from the town of Ashwa were interviewed. They said the village was freed by elements of Asaib Ahl Al-Haq and the Ali Akhbar Brigades. They told all the residents to leave and go to displaced camps in the south. The Iraqi forces then incorporated the town into a large security zone with a berm and ditches. Satellite imagery showed that from December 2016 to February 2017 140 buildings were destroyed with explosives, earth moving machinery, and fire. HRW talked with three residents of Mashirafat al-Jisr next to Ashwa. One resident said that members of Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada arrived in the town and told people to go to camps in the south. A week later some people returned and found their houses burned and looted. During that time Asaib Ahl Al-Haq was in charge of Mashirafat al-Jisr. Satellites showed that 90% of the buildings in the village were burned. Similarly, when the Hashd freed Khoytlab all the civilians left and have not returned since. From December to February 110 buildings were damaged using explosives, machinery and fire. Finally, 6 people from Qaraqosh told HRW that their houses had been looted and burned by government forces, which consisted of the Christian Ninewa Plains Protection Units, elements of the army’s 9th Division, and federal and regular police. 3 people said they returned to the town in October after it had been liberated and found no damage to their property. When they went back again in November and January they found that everything had been taken. Finally, in Khidir residents complained that Hashd forces including members of the Babylon Brigades had looted the town. HRW asked the Hashd to comment on their accusations and were told that all the damage was done either during the fighting or afterward due to IS booby-traps. Satellite photos and residents disputed those claims. Previous HRW reports have documented other incidents by the Hashd in Ninewa such as beating civilians, summary executions of suspected IS members, and arbitrary arrests. These have been carried out by Shiite, Sunni, and Christian forces showing that these were not sectarian incidents. Rather they point to the unprofessionalism and lack of discipline of the Hashd and their propensity for abuses. Elements of the ISF may have misbehaved as well in Qaraqosh.
The Associated Press talked with a family that had lost a son who was an army officer to the fighting in east Mosul in December. They said that they were proud of their son and his sacrifice, but that they felt disrespected by the government who had not officially recognized his death. That’s because Baghdad does not release casualty figures to keep up morale.
The Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development has been touring the districts of east Mosul. In Karama on the eastern edge of the city it found no running water with people having to drill holes in pipes to access some. There were no aid or government agencies present. Markets were open, but people had little cash and no jobs. In Tahrir in the northeast residents were also tapping into pipes for water, but some was also being trucked in. There were some aid groups providing food. Like Karama there were also markets selling goods, but people were having a hard time buying anything. These issues are likely facing many more parts of he city.
Several hospitals in Irbil were set aside to care for the wounded from the Mosul campaign, and were overwhelmed in the process. An official from the Irbil General Health Directorate told Rudaw that around 14,000 civilians and members of the ISF were treated in Irbil, with a similar number suffering from illnesses due to a lack of health services. Caring for those people used up 8 months of medicine in just 2 months. Kurdish officials criticized Baghdad for not providing any assistance. This has implications for the future as more people are going to be sent to Irbil when west Mosul is attacked. They may push the health care in the city to the breaking point.
The number of people returning to their homes in Ninewa has gone up recently, but the aggregate figures for displaced went up in the last few days. The International Organization for Migration counted a total of 160,302 people registered with the government and aid agencies on February 16. That was up from 152,448 on February 12, for an increase of 7,854. One cause for that was the increase in IS shelling of east Mosul, which the United Nations reported was up 25% from the previous week. At the same time, going back to the start of the month there were 161,178 displaced highlighting the fact that there is a constant move of people back and forth leaving and going back to their homes. There have been 57,462 returns from camps since the Mosul campaign started in October 2016. These figures do not include all the people that moved around within east Mosul during the fighting, and never registered.
Al Monitor talked with people in displaced camps who wanted to return. They have to put in a form with the authorities, have the ISF check that their area is cleared, and then get approval before they can depart. One man said he wanted out of the camp because life was hard there and there were no jobs. He said his neighborhood in Mosul had been freed so he didn’t know why he should stay in the camp. A woman said her relatives had gone back to their area and found that their homes were looted so she wanted to secure her property. People knew that there were shortages of electricity, health care, and drinking water in east Mosul, but that it was better to be in their own homes rather than staying in tents in a camp. Despite the difficulties it is only natural for people to want to be in their houses. As the IOM report showed more and more people are leaving these camps.
Abdullah, Dilshad, “Displaced Iraqis leave camps as smoke clears in east Mosul,” Al Monitor, 2/15/17
Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development, “Mosul Neighborhood Snapshot: Al Karamah – February 9, 2017,” 2/9/17
- “Mosul Neighborhood Snapshot: Al Tahrir – February 9, 2017,” 2/9/17
Buratha News, "45th Brigade of popular crowd repels Daesh west of Tal Afar," 2/16/17
George, Susannah, “A family mourns son lost to fighting IS in Iraq’s Mosul,” Associated Press, 2/16/17
Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Executions by Government-Backed Militia,” 12/18/16
- “Iraq: Looting, Destruction by Forces Fighting ISIS,” 2/16/17
- “Iraq: Men Fleeing Mosul Held in Secret,” 2/2/17
- “Iraq: Militias Held, Beat Villagers,” 11/20/16
International Organization for Migration, “Displacement Tracking Matrix Emergency Tracking Factsheet #16 – Mosul Operations From 17 October to 16 February,” 2/16/17
Al Jazeera, “Thousands return to Iraq’s Mosul as fighting continues,” 2/16/17
NINA, "Army Kills A Suicide Bomber And Arrests Another One In Mosul," 2/16/17
- "Daesh Bombarded A Popular Market East Of Mosul," 2/16/17
- "Daesh Targets A Secondary School For Girls East Of Mosul," 2/16/17
Rudaw, “28,000 injured from Mosul strains Erbil hospitals, causing shortages,” 2/18/17
Shafaaq News, "A raid on three neighborhoods of east Mosul in search of wanted," 2/16/17
Al Sumaria, “Daesh forcing people of western Mosul to feed their combatants,” 2/16/17
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 16 February 2017,” 2/16/17