National Security Service arrest an IS suspect in east Mosul (Telegraph)
The Iraqi forces (ISF) were back on the offensive in Mosul despite the bad weather that has slowed progress lately. The Bab al-Tob neighborhood was officially declared cleared for the second time. The first time was on March 15, but then the next day there was bombing going on. The Federal Police and Rapid Reaction Division also said they had taken the Arbiaa, Kur, and Tawafa, and attacked Bab al-Saray, all of which are in the Old City along the Tigris River. The immediate goal is to seize the Grand Mosque. Heavy rain has limited air support. The Old City is densely laid out with narrow streets, which has reduced much of the fighting to house-to-house battles. Finally, the Islamic State is putting up a sturdy defense. These have all contributed to the slow going in recent days.
There are continued reports of the insurgents using chemical weapons (CW) in Mosul. The latest came from Iraqi News that said some type of gas was used in mortar shells in west Mosul. If this was a CW attack it appeared to be chlorine gas, which IS has used in the past as is much easier to produce than the more deadly agents.
The fighting in west Mosul has been far more costly to the civilian population then the east. The Islamic State is still using human shields, the government told people to stay in their homes during the fighting, and the dense housing, especially in the Old City are all contributing factors. As a result special rescue teams have been created to look for the dead and wounded.
The displacement crisis building south of Mosul continued. The camps south of the city are full, yet the Iraqi forces continue to direct people there. This is despite the fact that there are over 20,000 spots in Kurdistan. The United Nations reported that 70% of the displaced in Hamam al-Alil the main screening area people are sent to are now living outside camps. That means they are probably squatting or staying out in the elements. This is a humanitarian disaster developing in real time. The ISF are trying to alleviate the problem by preparing to allow people to go on to Baghdad. The U.N. is also desperately trying to construct new camps. Still, this appears to be a huge mismanagement going on by the authorities as these new arrivals could be bused to Kurdistan where there is still shelter available.
The Telegraph had an interesting article following around the National Security Service (NSS) as it conducted raids in east Mosul looking for IS members. The agency receives hundreds of tips, mostly from city residents and arrests on average 30-35 people per week. They are then turned over to the Interior Ministry, which decides what will happen to them. Many IS members melted away into the population when the east was taken either to continue their work for the group or to simply escape justice. The NSS is therefore doing an important job to secure the city and reassure the populace that the militants are being hunted down. At the same time there was an incident several weeks ago where the Golden Division stopped the NSS from conducting a search accusing it of sectarian behavior. That confrontation led to a shootout between the two and several NSS members were arrested as well. That highlights that while the NSS’s activities are necessary, they have to be done without bias so that the goodwill the security forces and government has won from liberating the city will not be lost.
Finally, new casualty figures are available for the Mosul campaign. Based upon daily reviews of over 40 media sources, mostly Iraqi ones 8,106 fatalities and 23,155 injured have been counted. The vast majority of those are civilians with 6,753 dead and 17,578 wounded. Because Baghdad is censoring its losses, there is limited access to west Mosul, and hardly anyone is covering east Mosul anymore even though the U.N. has repeatedly reported that in the north there is constant IS shelling, these numbers should be considered a minimum.
Mosul Campaign Casualties 10/17/16-3/14/17
3,475 executed by the Islamic State
774 Killed, 721 Wounded by Coalition Air Strikes
Adel, Loaa, “Federal Police: Our troops are 600 meters away from Nuri Mosque,” Iraqi News, 3/18/17
- "IS uses toxic gases to shell civilians in liberated areas of Mosul," Iraqi News, 3/18/17
- “Security forces discover IS prison in central Mosul,” Iraqi News, 3/18/17
Agence France Presse, “Iraq forces near Mosul mosque where IS declared ‘caliphate,’” 3/18/17
Baghdad Post, "30 civilians killed, scores injured in random shelling on western Mosul," 3/18/17
Boumzar, Abdelaziz, “Thousands flee Iraq’s Mosul as battle edges into Old City,” Reuters, 3/18/17
Ensor, Josie, “’Here the enemy is hiding among you’: Iraqi troops root out Isil collaborators in Mosul,” The Telegraph, 3/18/17
Al Forat, “Military Commander: We are moving cautiously in Mosul to save civilian lives,” 3/18/17
- “Rescue teams search for the injured and retrieve the bodies of the martyrs in the rubble in Nineveh,” 3/18/17
Iraq Oil Report, “Inside Mosul: March 18, 2017,” 3/18/17
Al Jazeera, "Iraqi forces retake two key areas in west Mosul," 3/18/17
New Sabah, “The joint forces liberated Pasha mosque and two markets in West Mosul, killing 37 Daesh,” 3/18/17
Rudaw, “Army: Civilians caught in crossfire slow down troops in Mosul,” 3/18/17
- “Mosul residents flee the city with dead bodies of loved ones,” 3/18/17
- "UPDATES: Smoke from explosion fills the skies of western Mosul," 3/16/17
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “Iraq Situation: UNHCR Flash Update – 17 March 2017,” 3/17/17
World Bulletin, “Death carts carry family ripped apart by Mosul campaign,” 3/18/17
Xinhua, "Iraqi forces continue fighting IS militants in city center of western Mosul," 3/16/17