Losing Mosul, ISIS turns on Baghdad civilians

Sunday 04/06/2017
Death and destruction. Iraqis gather at the site of a deadly bomb attack near a pension office in Karkh district in Baghdad, on May 30. (AP)

London- The Islamic State (ISIS) carried out a series of at­tacks that killed at least 42 people as the militants continued to lose ground to Iraqi forces in Mosul.

The first ISIS-claimed car bomb­ing struck an ice cream shop in Baghdad’s central Karrada district during Ramadan, when Iraqis of­ten stay out late shopping or social­ising after breaking their daily fast.

Images on social media showed the devastating effects of the sui­cide attack, which left ice cream cups scattered on the blood-stained ground. At least 16 people were killed.

The second attack claimed by the group targeted the country’s main pension office in Karkh district. The blast killed at least 11 people, officials said.

The third bombing was carried out at an army checkpoint in Hit, 200km west of Baghdad, where 15 people, including four soldiers and a journalist, were killed, Anas al-Ani, spokesman for the Depart­ment of Health in Anbar province told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Iraqi forces are more than seven months into a massive operation to recapture Mosul and have al­ready taken back its whole eastern side and much of the west. Three neighbourhoods north of Mosul’s Old City — Al-Shifaa, Al-Saha and Al-Zinjili — are the targets of a broad assault by Iraqi soldiers, po­lice and special forces.

ISIS is mainly relying on “snip­ers and suicide bombers” to target Iraqi forces, as it is running low on mortar rounds and explosives after losing sites used to produce muni­tions, Iraqi Brigadier-General Sha­kir Kadhim Mohsen told AFP.

The United Nations warned that up to 200,000 civilians believed to remain in ISIS-held areas of the city are in grave danger and that large numbers could flee.

“We are deeply concerned that right now, in the last final stages of the campaign to retake Mosul, that the civilians… in (ISIS) areas are probably at graver risk now than at any other stage of the campaign,” Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, told AFP.

The World Food Programme said that it “has identified worrying signs of an increase in the rate of malnu­trition among newly displaced chil­dren from western Mosul.”

Many are expressing concern about how Iraqi forces, bolstered by the US-led coalition, will lever­age their influence and arms once ISIS is vanquished. Numerous Iraqi groups that benefited from US training and arms have been ac­cused of human rights violations.

Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine detailed allegations of torture, rape and killings of ISIS suspects at the hands of Iraq’s Emergency Re­sponse Division, an Interior Minis­try unit that has played a leading role in the coalition-aided opera­tion to retake Mosul.

Iraqi soldiers, Kurdish forces and local police have been accused of mass extrajudicial detentions of men and boys fleeing military op­erations against ISIS, reports by Human Rights Watch said.

Iraq’s Kurdish forces known as the peshmerga, who have received some of the most extensive sup­port from the coalition, including training, arms and air support, have been accused of destroying Arab property and forcing Arab residents out of dozens of villages retaken from ISIS.

Iraq’s mostly Shia paramilitary forces, who do not receive direct US assistance, have been accused of much more widespread hu­man rights abuses than the forces backed by the coalition.

While Iraq’s conventional mili­tary has been slowly clearing ISIS from inside Mosul’s complex urban terrain, Iraq’s Iran-backed Shia par­amilitary forces have been working their way through less glamorous territory: Vast deserts west and south of the city that run along and across Iraq’s border with Syria.

One division of the Iraqi gov­ernment-sanctioned paramilitary group reached Iraq’s border with Syria after securing a string of small villages west of Mosul and south of Sinjar, according to Ahmed al-As­adi, the group’s spokesman. “This will be the first step to the libera­tion of the entire border,” he told the Associated Press.

The Nineveh foothold would give the paramilitary forces con­siderable leverage politically and militarily in Iraq after the fight against ISIS is concluded, said Maria Fantappie, the senior Iraq researcher for the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental research firm.

A senior commander of Iran’s Is­lamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was killed while fighting ISIS west of Mosul, the Tehran-based Tasnim news agency re­ported. Commander Shaaban Nas­siri was killed near Baaj, one of the last cities that remain under ISIS control, near the Syrian border, Mashregh, an Iranian news web­site, reported.

Separately Turkish warplanes killed 13 members of the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in air strikes on the Avasin-Basyan re­gion of northern Iraq, the Turkish military said in a statement. The PKK militants were preparing for an attack against Turkey, the state­ment added.