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Iraqi Forces Seek Clues to how Islamic State Militants Ruled Iraqi Villages for more than 2 Years

Peshmerga soldiers, the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias are all fighting IS together, but tensions remain among them

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Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Flickr
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Tarjala (Iraq), November 2, 2016: About 10 kilometers from the front lines of the battle to retake Mosul, peshmerga soldiers tour an area recently recaptured from Islamic State militants. They say they’ve learned a lot about how the militant group works from examining the ruins of what were once bustling villages.

A bomb factory was installed in one shop and oil was burnt to hide the village from coalition forces, according to the soldiers.

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Iraqi and Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces are exploring recaptured villages for insight into how Islamic State took and held these villages for more than two years.

Islamic State militants left supplies and food in the tunnels when they fled in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)
Islamic State militants left supplies and food in the tunnels when they fled in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)

“We don’t exactly know how many IS members were here,” said a peshmerga commander, Tahir Aziz. “But since the bodies of the dead remain here, we know how many were killed. We don’t know how many escaped.”

On one end of the village, sandbags fill most of a mosque because IS militants put them inside rather than outside — a ploy to hide IS positions from coalition planes. Peshmerga slip down the tunnel IS built under the village, examining the militants’ escape route from their enemies.

While this kind of knowledge helps, soldiers say, fighting IS remains incredibly complicated.

Militants stored bags full of the dirt they pulled from the tunnels inside a mosque, so visible sandbags would not give away their position to coalition planes in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)
Militants stored bags full of the dirt they pulled from the tunnels inside a mosque, so visible sandbags would not give away their position to coalition planes in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)

“The challenges that remain are the car bombs and suicide bombs,” said Lt. Col. Osman Ali of the peshmerga. “Also, we have weapons, but we are not as well equipped as the Iraqi Army. We need more and better weapons.”

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At the other end of the tunnel, soldiers emerge. They say they will keep fighting until the militant group is crushed.

Peshmerga soldiers, the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias are all fighting IS together, but tensions remain among them.

Peshmerga soldiers examine a tunnel build by Islamic State militants, one of the ways the group managed to hold villages for more than two years in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)
Peshmerga soldiers examine a tunnel build by Islamic State militants, one of the ways the group managed to hold villages for more than two years in Tarjala in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, Oct. 29, 2016. (H. Murdock/VOA)

Even as these forces clear more areas of IS fighters, many people are frustrated because they still cannot go home, as rubble, bombs and bodies make the villages unsafe.

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“We don’t want to live outside of our homes,” said Raad Ibrahim, a 35-year old father of one, as he waits outside a checkpoint Saturday, trying to get permission to visit his home. “I don’t know anything about what is there. But I’m sure it’s destroyed.” (VOA)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Pichai met with senior Republicans on Friday to discuss their concerns, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said. Wikimedia Commons

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?