First Published: 2017-04-19

Iraq uses snipers to kill jihadists in Mosul
Iraqi snipers track IS jihadists around the clock in battle to retake Mosul from them.
Middle East Online

His eye glued to his scope

MOSUL - A few hundred metres from an iconic mosque in west Mosul, Iraqi sniper Salah al-Zuheiri has his eye glued to his scope as he searches for Islamic State group jihadists.

Iraqi forces are battling to retake Mosul from IS, after the group overran the city in 2014 and its leader proclaimed a "caliphate" from the mosque in its Old City.

IS "fighters are within range. We're tracking them day and night," says Zuheiri, a sniper with the Iraqi federal police who has taken up position some 300 metres (yards) from the Al-Nuri Mosque.

Inside a darkened room in a four-storey building retaken from the jihadists, Zuheiri tries to steady his rifle on sandbags.

A map of the surrounding neighbourhood, hand-drawn in red, hangs on the wall in front of him.

Zuheiri and his colleagues stay in the same positions for up to 12 hours a day, he says, for two weeks straight.

They "get food three times a day", he adds, and leave their positions "only when it's really necessary, like to go to the bathroom".

"We kill between three and five jihadists a day," he says.

Nearby, Murtada al-Lami lies on his stomach, the end of his barrel jutting out through a tiny hole in the wall in the direction of the Al-Nuri Mosque and the adjacent "Hadba", a leaning minaret that has long been Mosul's most recognisable landmark.

IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made his only public appearance at the mosque in July 2014 to declare a self-styled "caliphate" in parts of Iraq and neighbouring Syria.

- 'Human shields' -

To help the snipers find their targets, in a nearby room Iraqi soldiers take turns tracking IS fighters through binoculars.

And on a screen, members of a special unit survey thermal footage sent in from aircraft above the city.

"We're the ones who decide to shoot or not. We also have thermal binoculars, but we check the data with our colleagues to avoid an error," says Lami.

An officer in the group, who asks to remain anonymous, says snipers recently killed an IS emir, or leader, in west Mosul.

"Our snipers killed an IS emir on the west bank, creating great confusion in the Old City," he says, referring to the west bank of the River Tigris, which divides the city.

Fearing air strikes, jihadists went to the leader's funeral unarmed, the officer says, "but forced civilians to attend to act as human shields".

The presence of civilians in the Old City is a major obstacle for Iraqi forces fighting to retake west Mosul after seizing the east in January.

The United Nations says some 600,000 civilians remain in IS-held sectors, which include two thirds of the Old City, a warren of narrow streets.

As military vehicles cannot advance in the historic city centre, last month, General Raed Shakir Jawdat said dozens of snipers had been deployed on its roofs to cover advancing troops.

But IS also has snipers of its own.

"A few days ago a jihadist fired at me, but he hit the wall behind me," says Zuheiri. "I located his position and shot him down quickly."

 

Iran back to high enrichment 'in 5 days' if US quits nuclear deal

UN urges Iraq to do more for IS sex abuse victims

Taliban warns Afghanistan will become 'graveyard' for US

Two North Korean shipments to Syrian chemical weapons program intercepted

Algerian ‘bikini rebellion’ may be hype but harassment isn’t

Erdogan vows to prevent Kurdish ‘terror corridor’ in Syria

Iraqi troops recapture first two districts from IS bastion

UN says thousands fleeing Tel Afar amid anti-IS offensive

Second round of Kurdish referendum talks could happen next week

Dozens killed in coalition strikes as US-backed forces advance in Raqa

German foreign minister says Erdogan backers threatened his wife

Turkey arrests former national goalkeeper for ‘coup links’

Iran in negotiations to unblock Twitter

Yemeni FM says Iran 'part of the problem' in Yemen

On the trail of Spain's attackers

Mattis in Baghdad to support Iraqi forces

Erdogan critic stunned Turkey's 'long arm' reached Spain

Spanish police shoot dead man who could be Barcelona attacker

Iraqi forces close in on last IS bastion in country’s north

Kuwait arrests 13 fugitives in Iran-linked terror case

Qatar blocks planes from transporting pilgrims

Erdogan says joint op with Iran against Kurds ‘on the agenda’

Barcelona attack fugitive ‘dangerous, possibly armed’ warn police

Lebanese president ratifies public sector wage rise, tax hike

Young Syrian refugees want end of war and ISIS

Lebanon army advances against IS in border battle

Spanish police say driver of Barcelona rampage van identified

Toxic politics in Italy, Libya further complicate migration problem

Russia destroys large column of IS fighters in Syria

Assad says no Syria ties for countries backing rebels

In African tour, Sisi seeks to rebuild ties, address security and water concerns

In Egypt, Syrian refugees recreate Syria

Iraqi Kurds may postpone referendum in return for concessions

Dubai real estate market sets the pace for renewed growth in the GCC

German-Turkish intellectual held at Ankara’s request

Jordan’s municipal elections marred by deaths, riots

Rouhani says top priority is protecting nuclear deal from US

Russia doubts IS claim of stabbing attack in northern city

Turkey slams 'arrogant' German reaction to Erdogan poll call

Police confirm Finland 'terror attack'

Spain hunts suspects as IS claims attack

Aid project helps Syria refugees feel at home in Jordan

Lebanese army launches anti-IS offensive on Syria border

UN demands access to Yemen ports

Low-cost attacks a new reality for Europeans