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Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

A place to talk about domestic politics in Middle East (Iran, Iraq , Turkey, Syria) Also includes topics about Assyrian, Armenian, Chaldean .

Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jun 26, 2017 9:04 am

Iraq forces repel IS counter-attack

Fighters of so-called Islamic State (IS) have launched counter-attacks as they come under growing pressure from Iraqi forces in Mosul.

IS deployed large numbers of suicide bombers in different parts of the northern Iraqi city but the affected areas were quickly brought under control, Iraqi officials say.

IS has now been squeezed into a square mile of territory in Mosul's Old City.

It is the final phase of an Iraqi offensive to remove them from Mosul.

It is clear that these are the dying days of IS in Mosul, the BBC's Orla Guerin reports from the edge of the Old City where she is moving with Iraqi forces.

The jihadists blew up the city's landmark al-Nuri mosque last Wednesday. This has now given Iraqi forces a clear hand to move more swiftly against IS and they have certainly done so, our correspondent adds.

There were some 20 air strikes against the group on Sunday, and more overnight. Helicopter gunships pounded IS positions and extensive mortar fire was heard.

At least two IS counter-attacks were reported on Sunday night. The Baghdad-based Kurdish Shafaq news agency reported three attacks by the group in western Mosul - in Al-Tanak, Rajm Hadid and Al-Yarmouk districts.

Link to Full Article:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-40402501

Did ISIS blow up the al-Nuri mosque?

Extremely possible but some early reports were not entirely sure - perhaps the coalition blew it up suspecting ISIS fighters were hiding inside - we will never know for certain

In fact, when it comes to the Mosul Massacre, all we do know for certain is INNOCENT civilians are being SLAUGHTERED by both the ISIS jihadists fighters and the coalition bombs X(

THERE ARE NO WINNERS IN THIS FIGHT

ONLY DEATH AND DESTRUCTION
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jun 26, 2017 9:39 pm

After Mosul is liberated, where will ISIL go?
(an excellent question)

Mosul is surrounded. Besieged in an increasingly narrow area, ISIL’s fighters in Iraq are being squeezed, street by street, out of existence. The Iraqi chapter of ISIL’s "caliphate" is coming to an end.

Where will ISIL’s fighters go? As their caliphate crumbles, many will fight to the death; others will be captured by the Iraqi army; and still others will head for Syria, where ISIL still controls territory.

But there will be some who will find their way back home. ISIL’s ranks, originally staffed by Iraqis, have been swelled by foreign fighters, some of whom are women and children. Arabs, Africans, Europeans and Asians have all made their way to Syria and Iraq, believing in ISIL’s cause, or else been so brainwashed by ISIL’s propaganda inside those countries that they willingly joined the group. After their last stronghold falls, will they attempt to return to their old homes?

This is a question governments in the Middle East and Europe have been grappling with for some time, but it takes on an added urgency in light of the coming end of ISIL’s territory in Iraq.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the invasion of Afghanistan, many Al Qaeda supporters simply vanished, re-entering their old lives or waiting for another chance to wage war. Many proved very hard to track down. The same will be true for ISIL’s supporters.

European countries are torn, unsure of how to approach the topic. Cumulatively, hundreds of fighters are believed to have returned to European countries; only a handful have faced prosecution.

The two countries that have sent the most fighters per head to ISIL territory, Belgium and Denmark, have markedly different approaches.

Belgium has spent considerable resources tracking the movements of men who leave for Syria, intercepting their phone calls and emails, and then seeking to put them before a court on their return.

Denmark, on the other hand, has adopted methods from its crime-prevention policing, offering returnees to attend deradicalisation programmes and giving them access to mentorship.

But in both cases, the security services are aware that whatever they do matters not only to the specific case in front of them, but also to what will happen to other citizens watching from abroad.

A too-lenient approach could make jihadis believe returning carries no cost, making them either stay and fight longer, or return to preach and plot.

Too harsh a response, on the other hand, means stranding citizens who may want a way back inside ISIL territory. It also means the potential for a failed court-case of a returnee, setting a bad precedent, or placing large numbers of young men in prisons, where they may radicalise others. There will also be others who were considering going to fight who, seeing the harsh response they might face, could stay inside the country and plan attacks. These are hard questions.

If that is the case for young men who have actually been to war zones, what about young women, who joined to become "jihadi brides"? What about children who were radicalised while there? The grey area of the law is vast on this topic.

At root, it is a question of the law, of morality and of politics.

Of the law, because it is devilishly hard to apply the standards of proof necessary in a courtroom thousands of miles away from the scene of the crime. In many cases, prosecutors only have social media posts and intelligence pinpointing fighters in certain locations, barely enough to merit a conviction.

Of morality, because there’s a question of what to do about those who have genuinely repented, of those, like children, who did not have agency, and of what rights to be rehabilitated citizens might have.

Of politics because all of this is being conducted in the glare of the media. Publics are extremely unsympathetic to returnees. It is not unlike the feeling many have on learning those imprisoned have access to television or video-games consoles.

In Syria and Iraq, returnees may be returning to their former towns or villages, where neighbours know who they are and what they did.

In Arab and European countries, Muslim communities have become profoundly unsympathetic, practically excommunicating ex-fighters. Among the broader public, at a time of rebuilding in the Arab world, and a time of severe austerity in Europe, there is no public mood for limited public money being put into rehabilitating or supporting those who, after all, made bad choices all on their own. When people are asked the question, their answers usually sidestep the tricky areas of morality, law and politics, appointing to locking up returnees, or simply depriving them of citizenship and leaving them there.

None are satisfactory answers. At a time of vast ungoverned spaces around the world and ISIL affiliates that still control territory, leaving ex-fighters, embittered, angry and with military training, roaming around battlefields is a recipe for disaster. However difficult it is, ultimately it is a question of collective security for countries to allow ex-fighters who genuinely repent, a road, however hard and long, that leads them out of Mosul.

falyafai@thenational.ae

http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comme ... ll-isil-go
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jun 26, 2017 9:48 pm

Iraqi troops 'just days' from capturing Mosul Old City

Vicious fighting has left both sides exhausted and trapped civilians in crossfire, but the end could be near for IS.

The fighting is so close now it is within throwing distance.

Iraqi soldiers hiding in the walled back yard of a house in Mosul's Old City take a few steps and chuck their grenades across the street.

At the gate machine gunners fire at Islamic State positions.

Helicopter gun ships attack from the air, only withdrawing when another volley of artillery shells and missiles crash into buildings.

The two sides are not even 30 metres apart.

They are deep in Mosul's Old City. And this is quite simply apocalyptic stuff.

Fighters are one step away from hand to hand combat. You almost never see this type of thing in modern wars, but that's because this is not a modern war. It is as medieval as the ruins.

These tiny streets are now a battleground, playing host to fighting as fierce as anything we have seen.

Absolutely nowhere is safe. IS could be on the floor below you or in the house next door.

The crash, thud and rattle of the fighting is debilitatingly loud, wherever you are. From the front line to the rear, there is virtually no difference.

At much greater speed now, the Federal Police are closing in on the last IS positions.

Where possible they go through walls rather than risk the streets, which are wired with booby trapped bombs, a hunting ground for IS snipers.

Sweating in the intense heat they use hammers and mallets to make walkways through the houses, taking more ground.

It is hard and it is dangerous. They have no idea what is on the other side.

Sometimes, however, there is no choice. The only option is to run across the gaps.

Through spy holes Iraqi snipers try to pick off the IS fighters as they move around the rubble. The threat of a counter attack is constant. It has happened many times.

Incredibly people are still here. Thousands of them. Unable to escape until liberation comes.

Two old ladies emerge into their street and shuffle up the road.

Whole families, utterly exhausted and scared, come forward to be greeted by the troops. This ordeal is done. But surviving in camps will be an ordeal as well.

There is a constant hand delivered supply of food and water to the front. Up and down the rubble, in and out of buildings, supplies are loaded and carried on stretchers. They will return with casualties.

It is striking how many of the Iraqis are fighting with injuries. They are bandaged up on the front line and stay where they are.

It is baking hot. Searingly so. Troops slump in the shade of a destroyed archway, resting, drinking water, waiting to return to the fighting.

Few believed the Iraqis could show this resolve, but for seven months or more they have.

A commander showed me a map of their area of operations. They have taken back most of it. It is not cleared, it is dangerous and it is not totally under their control, but it seems the end is near.

"Just a few more days," the commander told me as a missile screamed over our heads.

The Islamic State fighters left here will die. They will try to take as many as they can with them.

But their time in Mosul is ending.

http://news.sky.com/story/iraqi-troops- ... y-10928194

There will be no winners in this fight - it is a Massacre
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:36 pm

Iraqi forces enter ruins of Mosul Great Mosque of al-Nuri

Iraqi security forces have entered the site of the destroyed Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul after driving back militants from so-called Islamic State.

BBC Arabic's Feras Kilani, who is embedded with troops there, says the complex has not yet been secured and is exposed to IS sniper and mortar fire.

Militants blew up the medieval mosque and its landmark leaning minaret last week as troops advanced towards it.

But the site is still of great symbolic importance to both sides in the battle.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance as IS leader there days after the jihadist group proclaimed the creation of a "caliphate" exactly three years ago.

IS is now in retreat across Iraq and neighbouring Syria, where a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters is laying siege to its de facto capital of Raqqa.

Pro-government forces launched an offensive to retake Mosul in October with air and ground support from a US-led multinational coalition.

They managed to take full control of the eastern half of Mosul in January and started an assault on the west the following month.

Only a few hundred militants are now believed to be left in about 1 sq km (0.4 sq miles) of the Old City, along with some 50,000 civilians who humanitarian organisations say have little food or water and are at great risk of injury or death.

Our correspondent says units from the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), Emergency Response Division (ERD), Federal Police and Iraqi Army began what they called the "final battle" for the Old City on Thursday.

The assault reportedly triggered clashes fighting throughout the morning, with IS militants holding strong defensive positions, he adds.

The overall commander of the offensive, Lt Gen Abdul Amir Yarallah, soon declared that CTS troops had taken control of what remained of the Nuri mosque, as well as the Sirjkhana district.

But it was until several hours later that troops entered the mosque complex, our correspondent says.

The Great Mosque was named after Nur al-Din Mahmoud Zangi - famous for mobilising and unifying Muslim forces to wage jihad against the Christian Crusaders - who ordered its construction in 1172, shortly before his death.

Despite its connection to such an illustrious figure, all that remained of the original mosque was its leaning minaret - nicknamed "al-Hadba", or "the humpback" - some columns and the mihrab, a niche indicating the direction of Mecca.

The Iraqi military said IS militants blew up the mosque and minaret eight days ago, leaving only the base of the minaret and a dome supported by a few pillars.

IS accused the US-led coalition aircraft of bombing the site, but experts said a video circulated online appeared to show charges inside the structures exploding.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called the mosque's destruction "an official declaration of defeat" by the jihadist group.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-40441936
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:41 pm

IS is now in retreat across Iraq and neighbouring Syria, where a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters is laying siege to its de facto capital of Raqqa.

Question:

Why do not the coalition prevent IS from crossing the border and reinforcing their jihadists in Syria?

Question:

Who really blew up the Great Mosque of al-Nuri?

Question:

Where are the 3,000 plus Yazidi captives?

While I am at it, I can think of a few more questions:

Why has nobody rescued the Yazidis?

Question:

How many innocent people have been slaughtered?

How many people in total have died?

Remember, many THOUSANDS of innocent people will have died, not as a direct result of a bomb or gunshot wound but through starvation, cold, simple illnesses and infections that it times of peace are quickly cured

Question:

How many innocent birds and animals have been slaughtered?

Question:

How much livestock was destroyed?

Question:

How many irreplaceable historic buildings have been flattened?

Question:

How many homes and business, farms and forests have been destroyed?

Question:

Does anyone seriously believe that this war will actually bring the Sunni and Shia closer together =))

Question:

How many BILLIONS of US DOLLARS has been spent on this destruction?

Question:

Why was none of the money used to secure Yazidi land and rebuild their homes and villages?
(I believe this to be an extremely serious question that requires an answer)

Question:

Was all the death destruction and slaughter worth it?

NO X(
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:03 pm

In final stages of Mosul fight, US plays larger role

The day after Iraq's prime minister declared an end to the Islamic State group's caliphate, U.S. Army Col. Pat Work and a small team of about a dozen soldiers drove through western Mosul in two unmarked armored vehicles to warn Iraqi forces of a pressing threat: friendly fire.?

The American colonel had a series of urgent face-to-face meetings with generals from the Iraqi Army, the federal police and the Iraqi special forces ahead of a major offensive Saturday morning to drive out the remaining IS positions in Mosul.

American troops are taking on an increasingly prominent role in the fight. Once largely restricted to working within highly fortified Iraqi bases, U.S. commanders now travel in and around Mosul with small teams of soldiers, sharing intelligence and advising plans of attack, revealing how the U.S. role in Iraq has steadily deepened throughout the operation to retake the country's second largest city.

The gains in the Old City bringing Iraqi troops closer to victory against IS in Mosul have also meant the three branches of the country's security forces are now fighting in closer quarters than ever before.

Weaving in and out of civilian traffic along the city's main thoroughfares, thick plumes of black smoke from airstrikes and artillery were just visible on the horizon from Work's convoy. He explained that the new battle space and lingering communication shortcomings mean Iraqi ground troops are at increased risk of being hit by non-precision fire like mortars and artillery launched by their partner Iraqi forces

"We're helping (Iraqi forces) see across the boundaries between their different units... just helping them understand where they are and how rapidly things might be changing." said Work.

Throughout the course of the day Work shuttled between bases, meeting with Iraqi commanders deep inside Mosul. While the U.S.-led coalition has closely backed Iraqi forces with airstrikes in a number of fights against IS, the Mosul operation is the first time U.S. troops have openly partnered with Iraqi forces on the ground within just a few kilometers (miles) frontline fighting.

"It's a very violent close fight," said Work, the commander of the 82nd Airborne's 2nd Brigade Combat Team who deployed to Iraq in January. "When the bullets aren't enough the (Iraqi) commanders want to turn to high explosives which might be mortars or artillery... so understanding where the other guy is all the time is kinda rule number one, so the lethal effect is directed at the target and not accidentally at another player that's on your team."

The various forces that make up Iraq's military have long struggled with coordination. While the Mosul operation is overseen by a joint operations command and the prime minister, forces on the ground maintain independent command structures, standards and cultures. The Mosul fight is the first time all three forces have had to cooperate in an urban environment and throughout the operation the army, federal police and special forces have faced deadly setbacks when they acted independently, allowing IS fighters to concentrate their defenses on a single front.

One of Work's stops was at a modest house in a residential west Mosul neighborhood. About a dozen U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers were hunched over computers identifying IS targets just a few hundred meters away ahead of the next day's operation. The presence of U.S. forces at the small patrol base deep inside Mosul is a level of support that had not been authorized when the Mosul fight first began.

Under the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis moved U.S. combat advisers closer to the fight by authorizing U.S. troops to partner with Iraqi forces at the battalion level.

The U.S.-led coalition's fight against IS in Iraq has slowly expanded over the past three years from a campaign of airstrikes carried out by coalition forces who largely stayed within heavily fortified bases to an operation with some 6,000 American troops on the ground, many operating close to frontline fighting. The evolution suggests that despite a large training program designed to generate enough soldiers to retake Mosul, Coalition officials assessed Iraqi forces lacked the tactical skills to conduct the operation without close support.

Between meetings, as Work's vehicle rolled through a traffic circle in western Mosul, he said being on the ground beside his Iraqi counterparts is essential.

"For any commander there is no substitute for seeing it with your own eyes... for talking to the stake holders who are in it making the decisions every day," he said. "ISIS has no boundaries, so our adviser network can't have any boundaries. And so part of it is getting out there daily to see it."

Work's one-on-one meetings inside Mosul come with a huge operational footprint. During his visit Friday a team of dozens of U.S. soldiers — most young men on their first deployment — provided him security and handled logistics. At each patrol base inside Mosul where U.S. troops work with Iraqi forces there can be dozens to over a hundred soldiers deployed to protect a team of just 10 advisers.

With the vast majority of Mosul retaken from IS, soldiers trained by the coalition to fight in combat are now transitioning to act as hold forces to help provide security. Even after the last pockets of the city are retaken, Work said he doesn't expect that will necessarily mean an end to the U.S. role in Mosul.

"Mosul is going to be a challenge, ISIS is going to continue to challenge the hold," he said using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group. He said U.S. troops would continue to facilitate coordination and provide advice to security forces in Mosul just as they did during the offensive.

"We will continue to help Iraqi commanders recognize that this is what you fought for."

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wir ... e-48390319
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jul 01, 2017 7:51 pm

Saddam Hussein (Sunni) was a monster, possibly responsible for the death of more than a MILLION people during his rein of terror. Including:

Slaughter of MANY THOUSANDS of innocent Kurds

Slaughter of countless numbers of Iraqi Shia

Slaughter of Iranians during the Iraq/Iran war (supported by the West and US)

Sunni are a minority, possibly 20% or less of the Iraqi population, and Saddam could not have held on to power for so long without that international support X(

When Saddam was removed from power, there was supposed to be a setting up of a shared government in Iraq - it did not last long

Soon the Sunni were being forced out of the Iraqi Parliament and as supporters of Saddam, they found themselves under attack from Shia forces

I understand fully the loathing Shia felt towards the Saddam loving Sunni

This in-fighting went on for a number of years - plenty of time for the West/US to intervene

But the entire world stood back and happily watched the Sunni being attacked and victimized

In Mosul, as in many other places, the Sunni were second class citizens - isolated in their own neighbourhoods by numerous road blocks and internal checks

One did not have to be a political genius to guess what would happen

Kick a dog enough times and eventually it will bite

The Islamic Front were seen by many Sunni as the lessor of 2 evils

In my valued opinion: The US and Western powers should have intervened much earlier and helped the Shia and Sunni work together. Then ISIS would never have got a foothold in Iraq and countless lives would have been saved :((

Will Iraq be a safer place NO

Will Sunni and Shia live and work together in peace NO

The world must STOP selling/giving weapons to areas of conflict

The money spent on death and destruction would be far better spent on supporting 3rd world countries and ending conflicts

ALL SIDES who bombed/slaughtered innocent people should face trial for WAR CRIMES
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:11 am

Can civilian deaths be avoided in RAF air strikes on IS?

In its fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) the RAF has carried out more than 1,000 air strikes and released more than 3,000 bombs and missiles since October 2014.

It says this is its "most challenging fight for decades" and yet has "no evidence" yet that it has caused any civilian casualties.

So far, the United States is the only coalition country to have claimed responsibility for civilian casualties, 484. But Airwars, a group monitoring reports of casualties from the ground, thinks that, with dozens more incidents still to be investigated, the real figure is much higher.

The fight against IS is now in its most difficult phase.

The reason is simple. The US-led coalition is trying to dislodge the extremists from their strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul - cities with tightly packed streets where they are hiding among the local population and using them as human shields. The risk of civilian casualties is extremely high.

I put it to Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, who is overseeing the UK's contribution, that avoiding civilian casualties is simply not possible. He acknowledges that assessment might change over time. "We are human and not perfect," he says, "but we are doing our damnedest" to get it right.

The US investigation into reported incidents of civilian casualties is being carried out by a small group of military personnel. The team of two was recently increased to six. Given the intensity of the battle on the ground they often have no access to the sites to speak to any eyewitnesses.

In contrast, Airwars, believes that at least 4,118 civilians have been killed. Before the offensive on Mosul began Airwars was investigating about 40 allegations of civilian casualties a month, but now it is up to 160.

For its part, the RAF says it is going out of its way to address worries about mistakes which might result in civilian casualties. The BBC has been told that in the second half of 2016 - when the offensive on Mosul began - the RAF either turned down, or asked for more intelligence about, half the targets it was given.

We asked Air Commodore Stringer specifically about Airwars' allegation of 80 civilian casualties caused by non-US allies in the coalition. He was adamant the US had not shown him anything to suggest UK was one of those countries.

For the first time we've been allowed to interview some of the RAF crews involved in the mission about the challenges they are facing.

At RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus they talked us through some of the air strikes they have been conducting, using the cockpit footage that records every bomb dropped and missile fired. We agree not to use their full names to protect their identities.

James, a wing commander, flies in a Tornado. He tells me civilian casualties are the biggest risk to the mission because "if we cause them there's pressure for us to stop".

He shows me the imagery of a recent air strike on an IS artillery position hidden in the doorway of a high-rise building in Mosul. The aircrew has been directed to the target by Iraqi troops via an operations room on the ground.

That office can receive a feed of the cockpit video from the jet, flying tens of thousands of feet above, to make sure they are all looking at the right building.

There is a heat haze as the Tornado fires a Brimstone missile. It can be directed either by a laser or GPS. The aircrew can alter the trajectory, the line of attack and the timing of the fuse to limit the impact and collateral damage.

Seconds after it is fired, the Brimstone hits the doorway where the weapon has been hidden. Once the dust clears the building is still standing relatively unscathed.

James tells me the Tornados are now carrying more Brimstone missiles because their small explosive causes less damage than the larger Paveway bomb.

"Dave", not his real name, operates a Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft. He shows me how they use the drone's infrared sensor to detect the heat spot of a recently fired mortar hidden in a residential area. The only other heat spot is a motorcyclist, who clears a nearby road before the Reaper fires its Hellfire missile.

I ask "Dave" whether he can guarantee there will be zero civilian casualties. Even infrared sensors can't see through walls. After a brief pause he admits its not possible to give that assurance. But, he says, they are doing everything in their power, including watching an area for hours, to protect civilian life.

Every member of the crew, he says, "wants to go home with a battle damage assessment that says no civilian casualties".

There have been suggestions the rules of engagement for coalition forces have been relaxed since the offensive on Mosul began.

Air Commodore Stringer insists there is still the same scrutiny and oversight for each target. But when aircrews need to act quickly in support of forces on the ground, they can decide to engage a target quickly. The process has been speeded up with decisions taken close to the battle.

There have also been reports that the UK has a "hit list" of British jihadis it is trying to kill in Iraq and Syria. Air Commodore Stringer insists there is no such list - but he adds that, by dint of their membership of IS they would, nevertheless, be legitimate targets.

The general election has thrown up questions about whether this kind of military intervention is fuelling the terrorist threat back home. Air Commodore Stringer says he struggles to make the connection.

"We have an opponent who just hates us and everything we stand for," he says. "We have to deal with that and defeat them militarily. And that is why we're here."

They are fighting a brutal enemy, who unlike them, has no worries about killing civilians.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40383768#
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jul 02, 2017 10:11 pm

Airstrikes propel Mosul gains, despite toll on civilians

Iraqi forces say their recent territorial gains against the Islamic State group in Mosul’s Old City have largely been propelled by airstrikes, despite a spike in allegations of civilian casualties and warnings from human rights groups of the dangers of using large munitions in the dense, highly-populated area.

As strikes pummeled the Old City Sunday, hundreds of civilians fled. Many were badly injured and had to be carried out over mounds of rubble by family members. Deeper inside the district, narrow alleyways were littered with bodies.

Special forces Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Timimi said over the past three days his forces have carried out about 20 airstrikes a day on IS-held territory within there are of operation — a portion of the Old City measuring about one square kilometer (0.6 square miles) in size.

“It’s because we have a lot of enemy forces here,” he said, conceding the number of munitions used was relatively high.

Half buried in a mound of rubble beside a strike crater, limbs protruded, darkened by dust and rotting in the summer heat. The pile of rocks was once a brightly painted house with a courtyard garden.

“Those were two Daesh fighters,” said Sgt. Ali Mehdi, a member of al-Timimi’s security detail, using an Arabic acronym for IS.

When the small unit rounded another narrow street the men silently stepped over the body of an elderly man lying in a pool of fresh blood.

A warning cracked over the radio that an airstrike was called in on a position just 50 meters away and the men ducked into a cleared home. When they emerged two more bodies, in civilian clothes and without weapons, lay in the next street.

Throughout the fight against IS, the U.S.-led coalition has largely relied on airstrikes to enable Iraqi ground forces to advance. But in previous battles, civilians were evacuated from front lines. In Mosul, the Iraqi government told the city’s estimated one million people to stay put to avoid massive displacement.

Iraqi forces have repeatedly requested airstrikes in Mosul, often to kill teams of just two or three IS fighters armed with light weapons.

Manhal Munir was sheltering in the basement of his home with his extended family when IS fighters took a position on his roof. They were targeted by an airstrike Sunday morning. The house collapsed.

“I just pulled my youngest daughter out with me,” Munir said at a nearby medic station, the toddler on his lap. “My mother was stuck between two large blocks of cement. We tried to free her,” he said, still covered in dust and his eyes red with grief. “After two hours she died.”

Link to Full Article:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/mi ... c1f9362a22
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jul 03, 2017 8:41 pm

The battle for Mosul is almost over. What next?

Can ISIL make a comeback in Mosul?

On June 29, 2014 Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, standing on the pulpit of the al-Nuri mosque in Mosul, declared his caliphate.

On the same day three years later, that mosque was captured by Iraqi military forces. Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi used an electronic pulpit, Twitter, to celebrate the victory over the Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

While the date of the mosque's capture is redolent with symbolism, the theatrics of the event cannot hide the anxieties and fear of the Iraqis and the international community that Abadi's declaration is premature, as ISIL has not been completely eliminated in Mosul, or worse, might make a coordinated comeback in the city.

The Iraqi government's military victory has now opened up a space for a political solution to reintegrate the city. How the Iraqi state manages this delicate process will ultimately determine ISIL's ability to threaten the nation in the future.

Securing urban centres

After ISIL was expelled from Iraqi towns such as Tikrit, Falluja, and Ramadi over 2015 and 2016, the central government's management of both reconstruction and resettlement of these urban centres has been ad hoc and lethargic, owing to a lack of funds and political will. The same can be said for the districts of Mosul freed from ISIL over the past couple of months. As Mosul reverts back to the central government's control, it must be remembered that it was Baghdad's governance of Mosul that led to the conditions that allowed ISIL to find fertile ground in this city in the first place. Reconstruction and resettlement will be the key factors for the citizens of Mosul in reconciling with the central government.

This issue is paramount as ISIL fighters are still holding out in Mosul districts and are likely to have sleeper cells in liberated areas of the city. Local cooperation will be needed in the face of these looming threats. Nonetheless, a lot has changed since 2014, when Mosul's inhabitants either actively enabled or passively resigned themselves to ISIL's presence.

Mosul's population has endured physical and emotional deprivation under ISIL rule and there is little chance that they will allow it to re-establish its authority over the city.

Not only was ISIL's rule brutal over the past three years, but its destruction of the al-Nuri mosque and its iconic curved minaret, which gave Mosul its nickname "al-Hadba" (the hunchback), symbolically severed any chance of the group reasserting control over the city. With this act, ISIL tried to deprive the Iraqi government of the symbolic victory of capturing the mosque intact.

It also tried to send a message to Mosul residents. ISIL had destroyed Mosul's pre-Islamic heritage in its museum and sites such as Nimrud before, but by destroying that mosque it signalled that Mosul inhabitants were not "true Muslims". As a BBC reporter documented, when ISIL fighters withdrew from one Mosul neighbourhood, they told the local people, "You did not take care of the caliphate, so you do not deserve it".

Mosul's population has endured physical and emotional deprivation under ISIL's rule and there is little chance that they will allow it to re-establish its authority over the city. However, Mosul's traumatic past under ISIL does not translate into de facto support for the government in Baghdad. The question for Iraq's future remains: how to establish its legitimacy among the alienated Arab Sunnis in this city, in addition to the greater Ninawa, Anbar and Salah al-Din provinces. The pace of reconstruction, resettlement, and political inclusion, on the municipal and national level will ultimately determine the peace.

On the national level the Iraqi government has yet to develop a compelling strategic narrative of how a political process can address the underlying conditions which led to the emergence of ISIL in the first place.

What the Iraqi government needs to do

At this juncture in Iraq's post-2003 political development, it may be useful to see what lessons from other conflict zones can be applied to Mosul and other Iraqi areas formerly held by ISIL.

    First, the Iraqi state has to articulate a plan that will guarantee the meaningful inclusion of marginalised groups, which include the Arab Sunnis in Mosul and Ninawa province, as well as its minorities, Christians and Yezidis.

    Second, the state has to demonstrate beyond mere rhetoric how it will tackle structural inequalities, including corruption and the abuse of power of state security forces and paramilitary actors, in addition to the justice sector institutions. The potential for corruption among these sectors will only increase as reconstruction aid, both Iraqi and international, pours in.

    Third, international aid can be made contingent on trust-building measures that foster social cohesion in Mosul and other formerly ISIL-held territories. Such measures include the establishment of grievance mechanisms that create spaces for dialogue between the communities in Mosul and the security sector. Given that it was the behaviour of the Iraqi security forces that alienated many of Mosul's inhabitants before 2014, community policing programmes between locals of Mosul and security forces would foster social cohesion.

Alas, Iraqi national and regional politics are complicated and involve numerous actors, both foreign and domestic, that will only complicate achieving such an agenda. However, true victory in Mosul will not be measured in capturing a destroyed mosque, but long-term, sustainable strategies that might not be captured in a single tweet.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinio ... 34550.html
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Mon Jul 03, 2017 8:48 pm

How ISIS Survives the Fall of Mosul

Long after the city is back in the hands of the Iraqi government, it will continue to be a prop for the Islamic State—although an altogether different one.

Eight and a half months into the coalition-backed campaign to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second city looks like it is finally on the brink of freedom. After launching the last phase of the battle in mid-June, the Iraqi security forces slowly but surely penetrated the Old City, one of the final ISIS redoubts in Mosul. And, on Thursday, just after recapturing the Nuri Mosque—at which ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi accepted his role as “caliph” in June 2014, and which ISIS demolished one week ago—the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the “end of the Daesh [ISIS] state of falsehood.”

While this is indisputably good news, we must rein in our optimism. The truth is, ISIS has been planning for defeat in Mosul for months, if not years. Losing the city has long been part of its global plan. And even though the loss of its self-declared Iraqi capital will be a genuine blow to the group’s territorial pretensions, ISIS is not going to evaporate just because it has fallen.

Since October 2016, when the campaign to retake Mosul was first launched, ISIS has been putting up an immensely stiff resistance: thousands of its fighters have been killed by coalition forces, and hundreds more blown up in suicide operations. But no matter how fiercely it fought, the group was never realistically going to repel the onslaught. The few thousand fighters that ISIS had holed up in the city faced about ten times as many members of a reconstituted and determined Iraqi security forces that was backed by U.S. air power.

What, then, were the strategic objectives of ISIS’s doomed resistance these last few months? While its leaders persistently proclaimed that victory was just around the corner, and while the rank-and-file were probably fighting under the pretense that they might actually win, something more abstract seems to have been driving the battle. At its heart has been a compulsive obsession, not so much with defense as with narrative—the caliphate has been doing all it can to make sure it could be seen to be putting up a fight. In that sense, much of what has happened since late 2016 can be seen as an exercise in propaganda

ISIS has almost certainly been planning for this moment since 2014. By seizing as much territory as it did back then, its leaders were violating one of the key principles of non-state on state irregular warfare: Act scarce, and never present an obvious target. Given their proven insurgent pedigree, they will almost certainly have been aware of this. Nevertheless, by taking over Mosul—a city of some 2 million people—they laid the foundations for the apparent catastrophe that their organization now faces.

But what if this “catastrophe” is what ISIS wants? The group has been counter-intuitive in the past, so why not now?

If statehood was indeed the Islamic State’s aim, it has resoundingly failed. However, if it really hoped to establish a lasting, viable administration, it would not have raped, murdered, and terrorized its way across the Middle East and North Africa in the way it did, let alone systematically provoked the international community into forming a coalition to destroy it.

What if, more than anything else including territory, the group just wants permanence, to be the ideological hegemon of global jihadism? In this pursuit, the realization of ideological aspirations is far more important than the permanent administration of any piece of land, even if it comes at great material cost.

Viewed through this lens, ISIS’s most counter-intuitive acts become intuitive, if not ingenious, parts of a narrative-led strategy, one that prioritizes conceptual longevity over anything else.

For example, while the beheadings and war crimes that provoked the international intervention in Iraq and Syria may have materially hurt it, they also allowed it to wrest control of the global jihadist mantle, and claim to be singlehandedly taking the fight to the “Crusader enemy.” So too did its capture of Mosul and caliphate declaration in June 2014, even though neither made insurgent “sense.”

The fact is that, although ISIS’s audacious ultraviolence ultimately set the scene for its material undoing, it also meant that it could work towards creating the world it wanted to inhabit—a polarized, turbulent place that accommodated the jihadist ideology uncannily well.

For ISIS, this is what success looks like and, as short-lived as it was, the group has already gotten a good deal of what it wanted from the Mosul experiment. Seizing and administering the city for over a thousand days was more than enough for the group to make its mark as caliphate, and will be sufficient for it to boast in years to come of the jihadist utopia that once was. It alone will be enough to keep the true believers in its ranks in tow, even once it has lost everything else.

Long after the city has fallen back into the hands of the Iraqi government, it will continue to be a prop for ISIS, although an altogether different one. No longer will it be a paragon of jihadist governance. Instead, it will be a prototype for insurgency. ISIS will continue to propagandize through Mosul and, provided it can use it as a baton of instability with which to hit the Iraqi government (and the rest of the world too), the self-proclaimed caliphate is not going anywhere anytime soon.

https://www.theatlantic.com/internation ... da/532533/
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Wed Jul 05, 2017 12:26 am

Mosul’s war widows face new challenges in displacement

Female-headed households now make up more than a quarter of the 4,463 families at a UNHCR camp sheltering displaced residents from Iraq’s second city.

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HAMMAM AL-ALIL, Iraq – As she fled her neighbourhood in western Mosul, Asmaa Mahmood, 25, and her husband and their two young daughters came under heavy fire from militant extremists. They were captured and the men and women were separated.

“They took my husband and we had to just keep going,” she says. “We escaped and we hid in abandoned houses until we made it to the camp.”

Two weeks after reaching the safety of Hammam Al-Alil camp, she learned from other displaced Mosul residents that her husband had been killed. They had found his body and buried him.

“I was shocked and I suffered from psychological trauma and grief,” she says.

Widows like Asmaa are among more than 900,000 people who have fled since the military operation to retake Iraq’s battle-ravaged second city from militants began nine months ago.

They number in their thousands. Many of their husbands were murdered by armed extremists who maintained a brutal grip on the city. Others were killed in air strikes, or were shot or blasted by artillery as they fled across the front lines.

Their husbands were often the families’ sole breadwinner. Without an income and often with children to support, Mosul’s war widows are among the most vulnerable to have been displaced during months of fighting for the once thriving city, parts of which have been flattened.

In Hammam al-Alil 2 camp, which is run by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partners, female headed households make up more than a quarter of the total – 1,250 out of 4,463 families or 21,462 people.

Image

Since reaching the camp in April/May, Asmaa has received mattresses, a tent and items including kitchen utensils from UNHCR as part of the distribution given to new arrivals. Other help includes legal aid and reissuing of missing documents, including government ID, which is vital to receive benefits and move freely.

Like many of the widows, Asmaa is worried about her children’s future. Despite being illiterate, she wants to get a job to support her family.

She chats in her tent alongside her two young daughters, Rimah, four, and two-year-old Bedoor, who are dressed in matching green and white frilly dresses. Asmaa explains that she has to dress the girls identically to avoid arguments.

A much larger issue looms: she has yet to tell them that their father is dead, evasively saying that he was working and would soon be home.

Image

“I am so exhausted worrying about the future of my children. Now I have no-one to rely on,” she says. ‘’All I want is to provide a good living for my two daughters. I don’t worry about myself. I just don’t want my daughters to feel different from any other girls who have a father.’’

At the beginning of March, Sahar Amar, a 22-year-old widow, heard that her neighbourhood in West Mosul was about to be retaken by Iraqi forces. She gathered up her three children and ran towards the Iraqi troops as militants shot at them.

Her parents helped her carry her three young children: Zahra, 10 months, Amar, aged three, and Hamood, six. Together, they ran down a road that was littered with the bodies of the city’s residents who had been gunned down by the armed group as they fled.

“We survived by a miracle only. We could see and hear the bullets flying close to our bodies,” she said. When she arrived in Hammam al-Alil 2 camp she received a tent and mattress, blankets and kitchen kits from UNHCR.

Sahar explains that her husband was killed last year in a collision with a vehicle carrying militants. He had previously been in trouble with the armed group for selling forbidden cigarettes. She believes the crash was not accidental. When she heard the news of his death, she was days away from giving birth to Zahra.

During the displacement, her national ID card was lost. Her children still need government ID cards and birth certificates because those issued by the armed group are no longer valid. UNHCR is assisting widows, as well as all IDPs who lived under extremist rule, get the correct documentation.

Sahar was unable to buy her children gifts for Eid this year because she was no source of income. “I just want to survive and raise my children,” she said.

http://www.unhcr.org/news/latest/2017/7 ... ement.html
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jul 08, 2017 12:34 am

Humanity under attack in Mosul, Red Cross says

The fog of war once again begins to sweep over Mosul General Hospital, with an announcement that crackles out of the loudspeakers.

An urgent, desperate warning repeated over and over again: "Mass casualty, mass casualty."

The latest civilian victims of the chaos in Mosul are on their way here. Forty-five Iraqis needing urgent medical care after yet more violence in the Old City.

I am surrounded by medics, who are preparing to help. But all I can do is grip my camera, because I am here as a public communications specialist with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

I have come to Mosul to document what is happening, but what is happening soon overwhelms me.

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More than 815,000 civilians have been displaced by the battle for Mosul

I turn towards a little girl who has just been rushed inside.

I ask her name. Her aunt whispers to me that her name is Sakina. She is bleeding, so I call out to my colleagues for help.

I am not a medical worker and am already beginning to wonder: Is this serious? Will she survive?

I do not have to wait long to find out. Sakina has several wounds from an explosion.

My colleagues rush in to try to save her. Her aunt asks me to translate what the English-speaking medical team is saying, but she can see what is happening.

The medics try their best, but Sakina is dying in front us.

In Old Mosul, thousands of civilians are trapped and full of fear.

Air strikes, sniper fire, shelling and roadside bombs mean no place in the Old City is safe.

Residents are being forced to make impossible life-or-death choices as they seek to flee the violence.

Explosions shake the hospital, which lies only 1.5km (0.9 miles) from the frontline.

The staff say they do not feel in danger, but the workload is heavy. In early June they had three days in a row when 80 to 90 patients arrived all at once.

Hundreds of civilians arrive every week with terrible wounds.

Bomb blasts throw small stones deep into young bodies, a sickening kind of shrapnel that explodes up in anger from the very streets where these children used to run and play.

There is no child's play now. There are no fairy tales here. Mosul's young have been plunged violently into a real-life horror story that seemingly has no happy ending.

Parents are sucked into this horror story too - one with many chapters.

There is the father who carried his two-year-old into the hospital, suffering from a large gunshot wound to the head. And another who calmly asked a medical colleague for 22 body bags, because all of his family had been wiped out. A surgeon helped him with his request, but only after going behind a wall to cry.

Local staff are doing all they can. Some are not paid anymore, including the Iraqi medical team. Some receive incentives. Many do not, but they are still here helping. It is incredible.

I make a decision. I am here to take pictures, but I ask myself: "What am I doing behind my camera? I took some first aid courses so I am sure I can help, if only a little?"

Doctors begin giving me tasks: "Take the bandage." "Put pressure on the wound." "Quickly, over here."

I see another child who is wailing. I try to speak to her to calm her. She says: "I don't want to live without my mom. I wish I was the one who stepped on the mine."

Her face is full of shrapnel. It is the first time I have seen someone bleed from the eyes. She asks: "Am I blind?" She keeps screaming. She is terrifying everyone.

I am from Lebanon and I have seen lots of war. I am not afraid of shelling and shooting. But today I can see that our basic humanity is under attack.

I appeal to all sides in this conflict to protect civilians. Protect them all as if they were your own loved ones. Let them escape. Give them food, water and shelter. Respect the laws of war for the sake of all of us.

There are NO laws of war this is a SLAUGHTER


My thoughts once again turn to Sakina.

After she died, her aunt left the room and I followed. We cried together. I was hugging a total stranger but it felt like I was hugging my own aunt. She told me Sakina's mother and siblings had already been killed.

I now come face to face with Sakina's father, who has arrived at the hospital. He is calm, silent, but clearly deeply traumatised.

There is an Arabic saying: "There are a million words behind the silence." This is all too true as we look at each other, saying nothing.

Of the 45 patients who arrived at the hospital today, four died.

I take my camera, my pictures and my memories away with me at the end of a hot and horrendous day.

The work will go on. Patients will be cared for, beds will be changed. Floors will be cleaned. But the stain of what has happened here will not so easily be removed.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-40505529
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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sat Jul 08, 2017 9:11 am

'Victory' in Mosul to be declared within HOURS
Iraqi TV says ISIS is down to its final few metres of territory

    Iraqi security forces are set to declare victory in Mosul after obliterating ISIS

    It is thought only a few hundred jihadis remain in the Old City neighbourhood

    Government forces have been trying to drive out the terror group since October

Iraqi security forces are set to declare victory in Mosul within hours with local media reporting that Islamic State has been all but forced out of the city.

The country's state broadcaster said: 'We are seeing now the last meters (of the battle) and then victory will be announced. It's a matter of hours.'

A military spokesman cited by the TV station said the insurgents' defence lines were collapsing following months of fighting.

Government forces backed by the US-led coalition have been trying to drive out the terror group from the strategic city since October.

This morning they killed 35 ISIS jihadis and wounded six others while advancing into the Old City neighbourhood.

It is thought that just a few hundred militants remain in a confined area overlooking the Tigris River - which divides the city's east and west.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled Mosul as the Iraqi government continues to battle ISIS fighters, which was once a stronghold for the terrorist group.

Iraqi forces have made progress, liberating eastern Mosul in January of this year - but ISIS has been rebutting with violent attacks as the group loses more ground.

Despite clinging to only a sliver of territory in Mosul, desperate militants launched a counterattack yesterday reversing days of Iraqi army territorial gains in a matter of hours.

The dramatic offensive began just after noon, when as many as 100 fighters began firing on units of the Iraqi army's 16th Division charged with holding the northwest frontline in Mosul's Old City neighborhood.

The attack broke through the army's first line of defense and the rest of its lines soon crumbled.

The surprise attack illustrated the resilience of the extremists who have maintained the ability to conduct both conventional military counterattacks and insurgent strikes.

Hassan, a 45-year-old soldier with the 16th Division, described the close-fought battle inside the rubble-strewn alleyways of the Old City.

Daesh started to attack us from everywhere. We were so close to them that we even fought with hand grenades.

'We have lots of martyrs and wounded soldiers, but we can't evacuate them. It was epic.'

The initial wave of Iraqi army casualties began arriving within an hour at a field hospital a few hundred metres from the front, carried on stretchers by medics.

The Old City has been decimated by fighting - the neighbourhood's narrow roads, once passable on motorcycles, are now covered with rubble and downed power-lines.

The footpaths that lead in and out of the Old City wind through houses, across rooftops, beside airstrike craters and down into basements.

At least five soldiers were killed and 25 wounded, said a doctor at the field hospital.

The Iraqi military was forced to pull back about 75 metres behind a row of buildings along one of the Old City's few main roads, an Iraqi officer overseeing the operation said.

It comes following similar counterattacks in recent months by ISIS jihadis.

In late June, some 200 of the caliphate's soldiers dressed in fatigues that resembled the Iraqi military's Shiite militia allies launched an offensive on two neighbourhoods along Mosul's western edge.

Iraqi army units crumbled and special forces had to be dispatched to the area along with coalition surveillance and air support.

The reallocation of resources stalled the Old City push which was then on its early days.

In mid-June more than 100 ISIS fighters launched a large-scale counterattack from the Old City's southern front on Federal Police units stationed there, killing 11 and seizing armoured vehicles and weapons.

Despite the setbacks, coalition spokesman US Army Col. Ryan Dillon said the counterattacks were costing the terrorists large numbers of fighters and not having an impact on the overall operation to defeat the militant group.

Once Mosul is liberated, Dillon said, Iraqi security forces 'can completely focus on not just a conventional fight but also on security and holding that ground'.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... lapse.html

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Re: Updates on Ongoing Mosul Massacre

PostAuthor: Anthea » Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:07 am

Battered ISIS turns back to insurgency

The loss of its two largest cities will not spell a final defeat for ISIS, according to analysts and U.S. and Middle Eastern officials.
(I never thought it would be)

Three years ago, a black-clad cleric named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (a strong Sunni name) ascended a mosque pulpit in the Iraqi city of Mosul and addressed the world as leader of a new terrorist state.

The announcement of the caliphate was a high point for the extremist fighters of the Islamic State group (ISIS). Their exhibitionist violence and apocalyptic ideology helped them seize vast stretches of territory in Syria and Iraq, attract legions of foreign fighters and create an administration with bureaucrats, courts and oil wells.

Now, their state is crumbling.

In Syria, U.S.-backed militias have surrounded Raqqa, the group’s capital, and breached its historic walls. Across the border, Iraqi forces have seized the remains of the Mosul mosque where al-Baghdadi appeared and besieged the remaining jihadis in a shrinking number of city blocks.

But the loss of its two largest cities will not spell a final defeat for ISIS — also known as ISIL and Daesh — according to analysts and U.S. and Middle Eastern officials. The group has already shifted back to its roots as an insurgent force, but one that now has an international reach and an ideology that continues to motivate attackers around the world.

“These are obviously major blows to ISIS because its state-building project is over, there is no more caliphate, and that will diminish support and recruits,” said Hassan Hassan, a senior fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, D.C. “But ISIS today is an international organization. Its leadership and its ability to grow back are still there.”

ISIS has overshadowed its jihadi precursors such as al-Qaida by not just holding territory, but by running cities and their hinterlands for an extended period, winning the group credibility in the militant world and allowing it to build a complex organization.

So even while its physical hold slips, its surviving cadres — middle managers, weapons technicians, propagandists and other operatives — will invest that experience in the group’s future operations.

And even though its hold on urban centers is being shaken, ISIS is not homeless.

In Iraq, the group still controls Tal Afar, Hawija, other towns and much of Anbar province. In Syria, most of its top operatives have fled Raqqa in the past six months for other towns still under ISIS control in the Euphrates River valley, according to U.S. and Western military and counterterrorism officials who have received intelligence briefings.

Many have relocated to Mayadeen, a town 110 miles southeast of Raqqa near oil facilities and with supply lines through the surrounding desert.

They have taken with them the group’s most important recruiting, financing, propaganda and external operations functions, U.S. officials said. Other leaders have been spirited out of Raqqa by a trusted network of aides to a string of towns from Deir el-Zour to Abu Kamal.

U.S. special-operations forces have targeted this area heavily with armed Reaper drones and attack planes, disrupting and damaging ISIS’ leadership and ability to carry out plots.

New chapter

It is all a new chapter in the history of a group whose roots go back to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Fighting under various names and leaders, the Sunni militants who would evolve into ISIS killed many Iraqis and U.S. troops before Sunni tribal fighters paid by the United States turned on them, driving the survivors underground by the time the United States withdrew from Iraq in 2011.

New conflicts provided new opportunities. After the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2011, the group sent operatives there to build the force that later seized the country’s east, including Raqqa, which became its administrative capital.

Then it turned its sights back to Iraq, seizing Mosul in 2014, where al-Baghdadi made clear what distinguished his followers from al-Qaida: They were not just insurgents, but also the founders of a state infused with extremist ideology.

Senior U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials say more than 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed since June 2014, including much of the group’s leadership, and the group has lost about two-thirds of its peak territory.

But those officials, including Lt. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, one of the Army’s top special-operations officers, also acknowledged that ISIS had retained much of its ability to inspire, enable and direct terrorist attacks.

“When I consider how much damage we’ve inflicted and they’re still operational, they’re still capable of pulling off things like some of these attacks we’ve seen internationally, we have to conclude that we do not yet fully appreciate the scale or strength of this phenomenon,” Nagata said recently in an interview published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

ISIS has carried out nearly 1,500 attacks in 16 cities across Iraq and Syria after they were freed from the militants’ control, showing that the group has reverted to its insurgent roots and foreshadowing long-term security threats, according to a study, also published by the West Point center.

Internationally, ISIS has partly compensated for its losses at home by encouraging affiliates abroad — in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Nigeria and the Philippines — and by activating operatives elsewhere.

Between 100 and 250 ideologically driven foreigners are thought to have been smuggled into Europe from late 2014 to mid-2016, nearly all through Turkey after crossing a now rigidly enforced border, European intelligence officials say. But they may not be the most dangerous threat facing European authorities as long as ISIS ideology continues to motivate attackers.

A recent study by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague, Netherlands, examined 51 successful attacks in Europe and North America from June 2014, after the declaration of the caliphate, until June 2017, revealing that only 18 percent of the 65 attackers were known to have fought in Iraq or Syria. Most were citizens of the countries they chose to strike.

Rebuilding questions

Since the rise of ISIS, the United States and its allies have focused on breaking the group’s control of territory, but much less planning has gone into how communities damaged by jihadi rule will be rebuilt and governed afterward. Indeed, the jihadis’ departure could accelerate other conflicts.

In Syria, the United States has armed and supported a militia called the Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, to fight the jihadis. Most of its leaders are Kurds, many with roots in the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which the United States and Turkey consider a terrorist organization.

The group’s ascendance has angered Turkey, which considers it a threat, and many Syrian Arabs, who see it as a front for Kurdish empowerment at their expense. It also remains unclear how the bodies set up to govern areas seized from the jihadis can be financed so they can rebuild, restore services and provide security.

The administration of President Donald Trump has shown little interest in such measures, although experts consider them necessary to prevent the jihadis from returning.

“There is a tension in the U.S. approach, to avoid extended commitments and nation-building on one hand and the need to prevent the possibility of a jihadi resurgence in the future on the other,” said Noah Bonsey, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.

In Iraq, the defeat of ISIS in Mosul sets the stage for new power struggles between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurds, who have taken control of the contested, oil-rich city of Kirkuk and plan to vote on independence this year.

The fight against ISIS has also fueled the proliferation of Shiite militias, many of which are funded by Iran and are driven by a sectarian creed that has marginalized and worried Sunnis.

Many fear that with poor governance and sectarianism still the rule in Syria and Iraq, some reconstituted form of ISIS’ extreme Sunni Islamism could yet find support.

“All of these conditions in the end form the basic environment for the group,” said Hassan Abu Haniyeh, a Jordanian expert in extremist groups. “They formed the environment for it to start and spread, and now they are increasing, not decreasing.”

The caliphate also lives on in the virtual realm, as its operatives and supporters churn out propaganda, bomb manuals, encryption guides and suggestions for how to kill the largest number of people with trucks.

Many Syrians and Iraqis whose lives the jihadis have ravaged are glad to see them chased out, despite worries about the future.

“I am happy that Daesh is dying, but the fear of what might come next is killing this happiness,” said Ahmed Abdul-Qadir, a Raqqa native who was running an anti-jihadi media group in Turkey when gunmen he believes belonged to ISIS shot him in the jaw. He is now in France, and he communicated via Facebook chat because he is between surgeries that have made it hard to speak.

“It makes me wish that this whole organization would vanish and that no one who believes in its doctrine would remain alive,” he said.
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