The Islamic State made another attack upon the Hashd in western Ninewa. This time they assaulted the area around Ain Hassan.
The press is reporting less on the insurgents’ attacks inside Mosul. After the huge increase in such incidents over the last month the drop in coverage may be due to government pressure on the media. Baghdad does not like negative news about the war and security and has gone after sources as a result. Previously they ended embedded reporters in the Mosul battle, and said they would not allow journalists near the frontlines when west Mosul is attacked.
There were several stories about the impending fight for the other half of Mosul. The government’s narrative has been that the Islamic State is defeated. A source told New Sabah that there was a major breakdown within the group. Its war minister was killed and it was executing people as it became more paranoid about its hold on the city. Another source said that the insurgents were suffering from shortages of fighters and weapons. Reuters on the other hand noted the preparations IS was making and how difficult the coming campaign would be. IS is digging tunnels underneath the city, and cutting holes in walls between buildings to facilitate their fighters moving place from to place without being seen by the Iraqi forces. They have also cut sniper holes in buildings along the Tigris River. Coalition aircraft and artillery are attempting to take out their car bomb and IED shops, which will be a crucial part of the group’s defenses. An army colonel from the 9th Division told Reuters that he believed west Mosul would be more difficult than the east. There are narrow streets that will limit the use of tanks and armored vehicles for example. The ISF plans on attacking on multiple fronts to try to stretch out the Islamic State’s fighters. The Federal Police for example are aiming to take the Mosul airport in the south while the Golden Division will attack across the Tigris. At first the latter was believed to be a frontal assault on west Mosul, but the crossing may actually come further south. A spokesman for the U.S. Coalition Colonel John Dorrian repeated the belief that west Mosul will be a very hard fight. At the same time IS is cut off from its other forces in Iraq and Syria and can’t bring in new fighters. In the end west Mosul will probably be much like east Mosul and Fallujah and Ramadi and Tikrit before it. The militants will put up a tough defense, but once their frontlines are penetrated they will collapse.
A Hashd commander went after the U.S., Turkey and Vice President Osama Nujafi for the delay in taking all of Mosul. He blamed American and Turkish interference for not liberating the entire city. He also said that VP Nujafi does not represent the people of Mosul, and that Turkish forces were inside the city. These have been common themes amongst pro-Iranian factions of the Hashd. They have rejected the help the U.S. led Coalition has offered Iraq because they are aligned with Tehran. They also believe that Turkey is interfering with Iraqi politics and violating its sovereignty with its bases in northern Iraq. Finally, Nujafi is aligned with Turkey making him a target as well.
There were more stories about life in east Mosul. The Los Angeles Times went to several neighborhoods in the city. In one there were no aid agencies because it was considered too dangerous due to IS attacks. In another people were digging wells to try to find water. On the eastern outskirts of Mosul things appeared to be better. There food was being trucked in from Irbil to be sold in markets. Agence France Presse (AFP) talked with a family that left Mosul for a displaced camp. That was because a drone killed the father. The wife was also worried about IS sleeper cells carrying out attacks. A manager at a displaced camp told AFP that when east Mosul was initially freed families began leaving immediately, but now around 40 came back because of the increasing violence. A community activist also complained about some Iraqi forces being unprofessional. Finally, a Ninewa councilman complained that IS was spreading rumors amongst the populace to scare them. He said that militants were telling people that there were suicide bombers in their midst. These are more than rumors however as there has been a recent wave of suicide and car bombings. Living in east Mosul is difficult, and becoming more so. There are hundreds of people moving in and out of the city. People are trying to put their lives together but there are no real services, and the government and aid agencies only have a limited presence. There has been a dramatic increase in IS operations as well causing more and more casualties. Things will remain complicated for the foreseeable future.
Reuters went to an orphanage that used to be run by the Islamic State in the Zuhur district of east Mosul. Most of the children were Shiites and Yazidis, but they were taught to hate their communities. The textbooks they used were full of military imagery. Kids were brought in from around Ninewa, and even Syria to learn there. When the boys got older they were sent to Tal Afar for military training. These children that lived under IS rule for two years will never get this time back. Not only did they miss regular school, but also the indoctrination they received may negatively affect their lives for years to come. That’s made worse by the fact that they were all orphans, which means they don’t have parents and family to help tell them deal with what they went through.
Abdul-Zahra, Qassim, "Official: IS kills 8 Iraqi militia near Tikrit," Associated Press, 2/17/17
Bulos, Nabih, “In the half of Mosul freed from Islamic State, life returns to not-quite normal,” Los Angeles Times, 2/16/17
Buratha News, “A leader in the popular crowd: foreign agendas behind the unresolved battle for Mosul,” 2/17/17
Kalin, Stephen, “In Mosul orphanage, Islamic State groomed child soldiers,” Reuters, 2/17/17
Mostafa, Mohamed, “Official: Islamic State eastern Mosul cells spread panic through rumors,” Iraqi News, 2/17/17
New Sabah, “Daesh live in a state of hysteria after being besieged by the joint forces in the right bank of Mosul,” 2/17/17
Rasheed, Ahmed, “Islamic State readies for close combat in alleyways of west Mosul,” Reuters, 2/17/17
Rifai, Marisol, “In ‘liberated Mosul, residents say danger remains,” Agence France Presse, 2/17/17
Rudaw, “Coalition spokesman: ISIS threats to west Mosul civilians to end in ‘coming weeks,’” 2/17/17
Russia Today, “Grenade-dropping jihadist death drones are ‘insidious’ threat in Iraq – general,” 2/17/17
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