Islamic State has crushed a rebellion plot in Mosul, led by one of the group’s commanders who aimed to switch sides and help deliver the caliphate’s Iraqi capital to government forces, residents and Iraqi security officials said.
Islamic State (IS) executed 58 people suspected of taking part in the plot after it was uncovered last week. Residents, who spoke to Reuters from some of the few locations in the city that have phone service, said the plotters were killed by drowning and their bodies were buried in a mass grave in a wasteland on the outskirts of the city.
Among them was a local aide of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who led the plotters, according to matching accounts given by five residents, by Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on IS affairs that advises the government in Baghdad and by colonel Ahmed al-Taie, from Mosul’s Nineveh province Operation Command’s military intelligence.
Reuters is not publishing the name of the plot leader to avoid increasing the safety risk for his family, nor the identities of those inside the city who spoke about the plot.
The aim of the plotters was to undermine Islamic State’s defense of Mosul in the upcoming fight, expected to be the biggest battle in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
Mosul is the last major stronghold of Islamic State in Iraq. With a pre-war population of around 2 million, it is at least five times the size of any other city Islamic State has controlled. Iraqi officials say a massive ground assault could begin this month, backed by U.S. air power, Kurdish security forces and Shi’ite and Sunni irregular units.
A successful offensive would effectively destroy the Iraqi half of the caliphate that the group declared when it swept through northern Iraq in 2014. But the United Nations says it could also create the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world, in a worst case scenario uprooting 1 million people.
Islamic State fighters are dug in to defend the city, and have a history of using civilians as human shields when defending territory.
According to Hashimi, the dissidents were arrested after one of them was caught with a message on his phone mentioning a transfer of weapons. He confessed during interrogation that weapons were being hidden in three locations, to be used in a rebellion to support the Iraqi army when it closes in on Mosul.
IS raided the three houses used to hide the weapons on Oct. 4, Hashimi said.
“Those were Daesh members who turned against the group in Mosul,” said Iraqi Counter-terrorism Service spokesman Sabah al-Numani in Baghdad, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “This is a clear sign that the terrorist organization has started to lose support not only from the population, but even from its own members.”
A spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition which conducts air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq was unable to confirm or deny the accounts of the thwarted plot.
Signs of cracks inside the “caliphate” appeared this year as the ultra-hardline Sunni group was forced out of half the territory it overran two years ago in northern and western Iraq.
Some people in Mosul have been expressing their refusal of IS’s harsh rules by spray-painting the letter M, for the Arabic word that means resistance, on city walls, or “wanted” on houses of its militants. Such activity is punished by death.
Numani said his service has succeeded in the past two months in opening contact channels with “operatives” who began communicating intelligence that helped conduct air strikes on the insurgents’ command centers and locations in Mosul.
A list with the names of the 58 executed plotters was given to a hospital to inform their families but their bodies were not returned, the residents said.
“Some of the executed relatives sent old women to ask about the bodies. Daesh rebuked them and told them no bodies, no graves, those traitors are apostates and it is forbidden to bury them in Muslim cemeteries,” said one resident whose relative was among those executed.
“After the failed coup, Daesh withdrew the special identity cards it issued for its local commanders, to prevent them from fleeing Mosul with their families,” Colonel al-Taie said.
A Mosul resident said Islamic State had appointed a new official, Muhsin Abdul Kareem Oghlu, a leader of a sniper unit with a reputation as a die-hard, to assist its governor of Mosul, Ahmed Khalaf Agab al-Jabouri, in keeping control.
Islamic State militants have placed booby traps across the city of Mosul, dug tunnels and recruited children as spies in anticipation of the offensive.
(Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; editing by Peter Graff)
Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers unleash heavy tank fire on Isis fighters along the Khazir river. Photograph by Souvid Datta
By LUIS MARTINEZ
The Iraqi military’s looming offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS promises to be not only its largest operation but also its toughest test as ISIS fighters have had more than two years to prepare elaborate defenses inside Iraq’s second largest city.
“The size of Mosul makes this by far the largest task the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] has undertaken to date, an order of magnitude larger than the liberation battles in cities like Ramadi, Fallujah and Sharqat,” Col. John Dorrian, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters earlier this week.
Last year, American military officials said it could take as many as 20,000 Iraqi military forces to retake Mosul. Since then, the U.S. military’s training, advise and assist mission in Iraq has been focused on readying ISF to retake the city held by ISIS since 2014. That training is now almost complete with the last of 12 Iraqi Army combat brigades, numbering between 800 and 1,600 troops, ready to complete its training in a few weeks.
Senior American military officials have said in recent weeks that Iraq’s military forces are now prepared to undertake a Mosul offensive but that timing of the operation will be made by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The offensive on Mosul will likely follow the pattern used successfully by the Iraqi military to retake the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.
In a process that could take weeks, a large number of Iraqi forces will slowly complete the encirclement of Mosul. That will be followed by a push into the center of the city by the elite Iraq special operations force known as the Counter-Terrorism Service, which will be tasked with pushing out the estimated 3,000 to 4,500 ISIS fighters believed to still be in Mosul.
American military advisers working with Iraqi troops will not be engaged in the fighting but will remain at the headquarters of Iraqi military units. Airstrikes for the tough urban fight will be provided by coalition aircraft flying overhead.
“We believe that the Iraqis are well positioned to be successful and of course we’ll be there with our strikes so that as the enemy becomes evident, we’ll strike them and help the Iraqis advance,” said Dorrian.
ISIS fighters have gone to great lengths to prevent that from happening by building berms and trenches along major roadways into the city. They have also placed booby-trapped bombs along roads, bridges and inside buildings in preparation for an urban fight. Giant pits of tire and oil have been readied to create giant dark clouds what would make it difficult for coalition aircraft to conduct airstrikes in the city.
“All these things cause delays and challenges,” said Dorrian. “But they’re also things that as we train the Iraqis to go into Mosul, a lot of them have received specialized training like explosive ordnance disposal, sniper training, breach training, and there have been warfare-trained so they know how to clear buildings and all these sorts of things.”
It is believed some senior ISIS fighters have already left Mosul ahead of the expected Iraqi offensive and a Pentagon spokesman characterized those that have remained as “a demoralized enemy.”
“There is a very large scale loss of morale,” Capt. Jeff Davis told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.
When the fighting begins, it is believed that as many as 800,000 civilians could flee the city. As part of its planning, the Iraqi government has worked with the United Nations and international relief organizations to build 20 camps to take care of them.
As was done in the battles for Ramadi and Fallujah, the Iraqis will put in place screening procedures to find any ISIS fighters disguised as civilians fleeing the city.
Plans call for local Iraqi police and Sunni tribes to provide security in Mosul once the main fighting has been completed. Then the thousands of Iraqi military forces that fought to retake the city will undergo new training by the coalition in counterinsurgency techniques as ISIS likely morphs away from a combat force into an insurgent role.
‘Last battle’ against Isis in Iraq: forces mass for Mosul assault
Attack on group’s last urban stronghold in Iraq is most critical challenge yet to its ‘caliphate’ which led to exodus of refugees
By Martin Chulov
Friday 14 October 2016
Iraqi and Kurdish forces are finalising plans to attack the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in Iraq, the northern city of Mosul, which after a month-long buildup is now largely surrounded by a 60,000-strong force.
The assault could begin as early as this weekend and is the most critical challenge yet to Isis’s two-year-old “caliphate”, which had shredded state authority in the region’s heartland, led to a mass exodus of refugees, attempted a genocide of minorities and led to grave doubts over Iraq’s viability.
Read the rest (A very good report): https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/14/last-battle-against-isis-in-iraq-forces-mass-for-mosul-assault
Tags: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, coup plot, Daesh, Fallujah, Hisham al-Hashimi, international relief organizations, Iraq, Iraqi Counter-terrorism, Iraqi security forces, ISIL, ISIS, Islamic state, Islamic State fighters, Islamic State fighters rebellion plot, Islamic State's defense of Mosul, Kurdish forces, military intelligence, Mosul, Muhsin Abdul Kareem Oghlu, NGOs, Ramadi, Sharqat, Sunni tribes, U.S.-led military coalition, U.S.-led Military Coalition Forces, United Nations