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."

 

Terrorist bomb attack kills 22 at UK pop concert

Trump says Israelis, Palestinians ‘can make a deal’

Bahrain police raid Shiite sit-in killing one protester

US forces raid Al-Qaeda in Yemen, kill seven jihadists

Faz3a, a local NGO mobilising young people to help Mosul refugees

Prominent Egypt rights lawyer detained

Oil producers to extend output curbs at OPEC meeting

NATO aims to break Turkey-Austria partnership deadlock

Tunisia tensions simmer after protester's death

Five dead in Syria car bomb attacks

Syria civilians suffer deadliest month of US-led strikes

Islamists to join Algeria cabinet despite poor results

Tunisia's 2.1% GDP growth marks economic upturn

Trump meets Palestinian leader in Bethlehem

Istanbul demolishes nightclub targeted in New Year attack

WHO says 315 cholera deaths in Yemen in under one month

Trump seeks Israeli-Palestinian peace, lashes out at Iran again

Tunisia police use tear gas on protesters

Palestinians protest for hunger-striking prisoners

GCC and Arab League call for Yemen unity

Turkey's alleged coup ringleaders stand trial

Iran’s reformists sweep to power across major cities

Israel makes concessions to Palestinians 'at Trump's request'

Ivanka hales Saudi progress on women’s rights

Looming showdown between Egypt’s president, judges

Netanyahu says will discuss peace efforts with Trump

Bahrain sentences Shiite cleric to suspended jail term

Trump scandals no issue for Saudi says minister

Saudi women celebrate easing of guardianship system, call for more freedoms

Hamas sentences three to death for commander assassination

Rouhani faces fight with hardliners in US, Iran after election win

Trump to urge Muslim leaders to fight extremism in major speech

Trump tells Sisi he will soon visit Egypt

US, Saudi agree arms deals worth almost $110 billion

Iran's Rouhani wins re-election

Egypt marks MS804 crash with ceremony and no information

Trump lands in Riyadh on first foreign tour

IS bombing kills 35 in Iraq

US Pentagon plans to 'annihilate' IS

Dictator's nephew apologises to Tunisia for corruption

Trump heads to Saudi Arabia as domestic scandals mount

Ebrahim Raisi: hardline challenger in Iran

US and Saudi Arabia blacklist Hezbollah 'terrorist'

UN envoy slams deadly attack in Libya's south

Syria, allies condemn attack by US-led coalition