First Published: 2017-02-17

Residents of ‘liberated’ east Mosul still live in fear
As Iraqi forces prepare to cross Tigris River into West Mosul, residents in ‘liberated’ east complain of job half-done, with IS drones attacking from above, jihadist sleeper cells ‘everywhere’.
Middle East Online

Some residents accuse Iraqi security forces of 'lack of professionalism'

MOSUL - The Iraqi forces that retook east Mosul from jihadists last month have moved on to their next battle, leaving a security vacuum that has residents complaining of a job half-done.

The traffic jams in the streets and the crowds swarming the shops of the eastern neighbourhoods that the Islamic State group controlled only weeks ago are deceptive, residents say.

"Everything looks like it's back to normal but people know that bloodshed could be just around the corner and they live in constant fear," said Omar, from a civil society group that has been trying to breathe life back into Iraq's second city.

"Everybody is talking about the liberation but Daesh (IS) is still here," the 25-year-old said. "Their drones are flying above our heads, target our homes, our hospitals and our mosques."

The Joint Operations Command that has been coordinating Iraq's fightback since IS seized a third of the country in 2014 announced that the east bank of Mosul had been "fully liberated" on January 24.

The Iraqi tricolour has replaced IS's black flag above official buildings but the atmosphere is tense.

"The suicide car bombs are back and that brings back memories of Daesh," said Umm Sameer, a resident of Al-Zuhoor neighbourhood.

On February 9, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a popular restaurant in east Mosul, injuring several people, according to officials.

Contrary to some expectations, roughly three-quarters of the population of east Mosul stayed home and weathered the fighting that engulfed their neighbourhoods when elite forces from the Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) punched into the city to take on the jihadists.

- Fresh displacement -

Yet some of them are leaving now, despite the fact that their areas have been officially liberated.

Nuriya Bashir, in her sixties, left her home with her children and grandchildren this week.

"My daughter's husband was killed when a drone dropped a grenade. Daesh knew where he was that evening. The sleeper cells are everywhere," she said, speaking from the Hasansham displacement camp east of Mosul where she and her family found shelter.

"Just after the announcement that east Mosul was liberated, many displaced people left the camp to return to their homes," said camp manager Rizqar Obeid.

"But over the past few days, we have received around 40 families who couldn't bear the situation in the city any longer," he said.

There are security forces deployed in east Mosul but Umm Sameer accused them of "negligence" in their work.

CTS fighters have now moved out to prepare for an assault on the city's west bank.

"We have handed over this part of the city to the army," Abdulwahab al-Saadi, a top CTS commander, said

He admitted that insecurity remained in the east and blamed it on the fact that "jihadists on the west side continue to fire mortar rounds."

- IS still here -

But weaponised drones and mortar fire are not the only security concerns for east Mosul residents.

"The security shortcomings in east Mosul are obvious," said Amer al-Bek, an activist with a local civil society group, criticising "the lack of professionalism of some of the security forces."

Residents of four villages that lie just north of the city limits on the east bank of the Tigris have said that armed IS fighters are still in their midst.

"There are around 100 of them in the area, walking around freely with their weapons and combat gear," said one resident who would not give his name for fear of retribution, adding that the jihadists had recently executed several villagers.

"Why is the army not liberating our villages," another resident asked.

In the city proper, the number of residents who stayed on during the fighting made effective screening almost impossible.

The Institute for the Study of War said last week that the "inability to find a suitable hold force is also creating openings for IS to reinfiltrate, as shown by several attacks in eastern Mosul."

Besides the immediate impact on the lives of civilians, the think tank warned that such "re-infiltrations" could also affect upcoming efforts to retake the west side, "forcing the ISF (Iraqi security forces) to fight on two fronts to recapture the city."

 

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Separate Syria air strikes kill at least 32

Two more 'significant arrests' over London attack

Cities, monuments dim lights for Earth Hour

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East

Gunmen kill Hamas official in Gaza

UN says Israel has ignored resolution on illegal settlements

Veteran politician says Turkey referendum a 'test' for Kurds

More Algerian women in work, but husbands control wages

Beirut university settles US lawsuit over Hezbollah

1.1 million weekend travellers from Dubai hit by laptop ban

Shiite Lebanese women endure painful custody battles

Russia, China seek Iraq chemical weapons probe

Besieged Syrians struggle with dwindling dialysis supplies

Syria army retakes Damascus areas from rebels

Syria says peace talks must first focus on 'terrorism'

12 Syrian refugees dead after boat sinks off Turkey coast

Mosul displaced head into unknown

As war keeps them away, Yemen children dream of school

Ousted Egyptian president Mubarak freed from detention

Iraq's Sadr threatens boycott if election law unchanged

Israel, US fail to reach settlement agreement

Yemen rebel missile kills Saudi soldier

Turkish FM in Switzerland amid rising tensions with Europe

Britain arrests eight as IS claims Westminster attack

Man attempts to drive into crowd of shoppers in Belgium’s Antwerp

Palestinian FA chief says ball in Israel's court

Israel arrests Jewish teen over anti-Semitic terror threats

An Egypt court is to reopen a corruption probe into Mubarak

Bahrain frees award-winning AFP photographer

Erdogan slams 'pressure' on Turks in Bulgaria ahead of vote

Israel policeman suspended after caught on video beating Palestinian

Turkey summons Russia envoy over soldier death in Syria

Bahrain sentences three to death for police bombings

UN-backed Syria talks restart in Geneva

EU summons Turkey envoy over 'safety' remarks

400,000 'trapped' in west Mosul's Old City

Saudi film festival launch postponed after sandstorm

10 Egyptian soldiers killed in Sinai roadside bombings