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20 people Killed, Vice Patrols Show Islamic State Terrorist Group Maintains Mosul Grip in Iraq

The gruesome public display of the bodies appeared to be a warning against other potential informers

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Peshmerga forces ride on military vehicles in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the Islamic State, east of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 9, 2016. VOA

Baghdad (Iraq), November 10, 2016: Islamic State militants fighting to hold on to their Mosul stronghold have killed at least 20 people in the last two days for passing information to “the enemy” and are back on the city streets policing the length of men’s beards, residents say.

Five crucified bodies were put on display at a road junction on Tuesday, a clear message to the city’s remaining 1.5 million residents that the ultra-hardline Islamists are still in charge, despite losing territory to the east of the city.

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Others were seen hanging from electricity poles and traffic signals around the city, residents said on Wednesday.

Thousands of Islamic State fighters have run Mosul, the largest city under their control in Iraq and neighboring Syria, since they conquered large parts of northern Iraq in 2014.

They are now battling a 100,000-strong coalition including Iraqi troops, security forces, Kurdish peshmerga and mainly Shi’ite paramilitary groups, which has almost surrounded the city and has broken into eastern neighborhoods.

Residents contacted by telephone said many parts of the city were calmer than they had been for days, allowing people to venture out to seek food, even in areas which have seen heavy fighting over the last week.

“I went out in my car for the first time since the start of the clashes in the eastern districts,” said one Mosul resident.

“I saw some of the Hisba elements of Daesh (Islamic State) checking people’s beards and clothes and looking for smokers”.

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Islamic State’s Hisba force is a morality police unit which imposes the Sunni jihadists’ interpretation of Islamic behavior. It forbids smoking, says women should be veiled and wear gloves, and bans men from Western-style dress including jeans and logos.

Hisba units patrol the city in specially marked vehicles.

“It looks like they want to prove their presence after they disappeared for the last 10 days, especially on the eastern bank,” the resident said.

Mosul is divided into two halves by the Tigris river running through its center. The eastern half, where elite Iraqi troops have broken through Islamic State defenses, has a more mixed population than the western, overwhelmingly Sunni Arab side, where Islamic State fighters are believed to be strongest.

Crucified corpses

The militants are putting up a fierce defense after their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, told them in a speech last week to remain loyal to their commanders and not to retreat in the “total war” with their enemies.

Iraqi military officials say they have sources inside the city, helping them identify Islamic State positions for targeting by the U.S.-led air coalition supporting the campaign, which is also backed by U.S. troops on the ground.

The gruesome public display of the bodies appeared to be a warning against other potential informers.

“I saw five corpses of young men which had been crucified at a road junction in east Mosul,” not far from districts which had seen heavy fighting, said another resident.

“The Daesh people hung the bodies out and said that these were agents passing news to the infidel forces and apostates,” he said, referring to the Western allies backing the campaign and the Shi’ite-led government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad.

In another sign of a clampdown on contact with the outside world, one retired policeman said Islamic State officials were trying to inspect SIM cards to check on all communications.

“I went to get my pension as usual, but the man at the office refused to give it to me unless I handed over my SIM card,” said the 65-year-old man, who gave his name as Abu Ali.

“These are the instructions from Daesh,” Abu Ali quoted the man at the office as telling him.

Many residents close to the fighting have said the scale of the clashes has been terrifying, with the sound of gunfire, mortar bombardments and air strikes echoing through the streets.

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In the Zuhour district, still controlled by Islamic State on Mosul’s eastern bank, witnesses said that cars carrying mortars roamed the streets on Tuesday, but were not seen being fired – unlike in the previous two days.

The relative quiet may reflect a reduction in fighting since Iraq’s special forces first broke into eastern Mosul a week ago.

They faced fierce resistance and have not sought to make any major advance since then.

One witness said traffic had almost returned to normal in most parts of eastern Mosul and markets were operating, albeit not as busily as before the start of military operations. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s Everything you Need to Know About the Increasing Islamic State Terror Activity in Syria

Surge of IS Violence and Terrorism Seen in Syria

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Smoke rises while people gather at a damaged site after two bomb blasts claimed by Islamic State hit the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli near the Turkish border, Syria. VOA

By Sirwan Kajjo

Islamic State militants have increased their terror activity in recent weeks in Syria, carrying out deadly attacks against Syrian regime troops and U.S.-backed forces.

Since early December, the terror group has conducted at least three major attacks on Syrian government forces and their allied militias in the eastern province of Deir el-Zour, local sources said.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor that has reporters across the country, recent attacks claimed by IS against Syrian military forces have killed at least 30 soldiers and wounded more than 50 others.

Last week, at least three fighters with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces were killed in what local military officials described as a suicide attack carried out by IS militants in the province of Raqqa, IS’s former de facto capital before it was freed in 2017 by the SDF and its U.S.-led allies.

Islamic State Syria
Islamic State militants clean their weapons in Deir el-Zour city, Syria. VOA

‘Threat to our forces’ 

IS “terrorists still pose a threat to our forces, especially in the eastern part of Syria,” an SDF commander told VOA.

“They have been able to regroup and reorganize in some remote parts of Deir el-Zour, where there is a smaller presence of our forces or any other forces,” said the commander, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to journalists.

He added that despite the declaration of the physical defeat of the terror group in March 2019, IS “still has hundreds of sleeper cells that have the capability to wage deadly attacks on civilians and combatants alike.”

In the town of Tabqa, in western Raqqa, local news reports this week said a suspected IS sleeper cell assaulted a family, killing three of its members, including a child. The reports did not say why the family was attacked, but IS has in the past targeted people whom it suspected of having ties to or working for the government or U.S.-backed local forces.

While most of the recent activity has been in areas IS once controlled as part of its so-called caliphate, the militant group has been particularly active in Syria’s vast desert region.

The Syrian Observatory reported at least 10 IS-claimed attacks in December that originated from the mostly desert eastern part of Homs province in central Syria.

Baghdadi’s death

Islamic State Syria
The Islamic State group’s leader extolled militants in Sri Lanka for “striking the homes of the crusaders in their Easter, in vengeance for their brothers in Baghouz,” a reference to IS’ last bastion in eastern Syria, which was captured by U.S.-backed fighters. VOA

Despite the death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in October in a U.S. operation in northwestern Syria, IS still represents a major threat in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, experts say.

“As ISIS returns to its original decentralized structure, members of the group are trying to show ISIS still poses a threat, even after the defeat of its caliphate and the recent death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” said Kaleigh Thomas, a Middle East researcher at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, using another acronym for IS.

Sadradeen Kinno, a Syrian researcher who closely follows Islamist militancy, echoed Thomas’ views.

“IS is now living a period of stability, so to speak. After the death of Baghdadi, their objective is clearer now. They try to stay focused on carrying out assassinations, ambushes and suicide attacks, and they have been successful at that,” he told VOA.

Kinno said IS “really believes in a recurrent cycle of violence, so for them the territorial defeat they experienced this year is just a phase of their ongoing jihad.”

US withdrawal 

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A convoy of U.S. vehicles is seen after withdrawing from northern Syria, on the outskirts of Dohuk, Iraq. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump in October announced a withdrawal of troops from Syria, which was followed by a Turkish military offensive against U.S.-backed SDF fighters in northeast Syria.

Some experts say the U.S. troop pullout allowed IS to regroup, and thus its terror attacks have increased.

“The U.S. decision sent a signal to [IS] that the U.S. is not interested in a long-term presence in Syria,” said Azad Othman, a Syrian affairs analyst based in Irbil, Iraq.

IS “now feels that its low-level insurgency in Syria could be even more effective as long as the Americans don’t have a significant military presence in the country,” he told VOA.

The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency said in a report in November that “ISIS has exploited the Turkish incursion and subsequent drawdown of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria to reconstitute its capabilities and resources both within Syria in the short term and globally in the longer term.”

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“The withdrawal and redeployment of U.S. troops has also affected the fight against ISIS, which remains a threat in the region and globally,” Glenn Fine, the principal deputy inspector general, said in the report.

But the U.S. has decided to keep about 500 troops to secure oil fields in Syria to prevent IS militants and the Syrian regime forces from accessing them. (VOA)