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."

 

Pentagon skeptical about Russia's Syria pullout claims

Senior Saudi prince blasts Trump's "opportunistic" Jerusalem move

Kuwait ruler’s son named defence minister

EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant rights violations

Saudi Arabia lifts decades-long ban on cinemas

Israeli sentenced to four years for arson attack on church

Erdogan risks sabotaging fragile relations with Israel

6.2-magnitude earthquake strikes Iran

Two Gazans killed by Israeli ‘strike’, Israel denies claim

French FM accuses Iran of carving out ‘axis’ of influence

Somali journalist killed in front of children

Over 170 dead after South Sudan rival cattle herders clash

Russia begins partial withdrawal from Syria

Russia weary of returning IS jihadists before World Cup, election

EU says Syria war ‘ongoing’ despite Russia pullout

Istanbul nightclub gunman refuses to testify

Integrating Syrians in Turkey carries implications

US opinion views Muslims and Arabs more favourably but political affiliation makes a difference

Iranian conservative protesters say Trump hastening end of Israel

Jordan referred to UN for failing to arrest Sudanese president

Turkey demands life for journalists in coup bid trial

Netanyahu expects EU to follow suit on Jerusalem

Putin orders withdrawal of ‘significant’ amount of troops from Syria

Putin to meet with Sisi in Cairo

GCC at a critical juncture

Houthi rebels tighten grip on Sanaa after Saleh’s assassination

Israel’s Syrian air strikes risk renewing escalation as Iran expands presence in Golan

Qatar to acquire 24 Typhoon fighters from UK

Bahraini civil society group criticised after Israel visit

Israel PM faces renewed pressure in Europe

Palestinian stabs Israeli guard in ‘terrorist’ attack

UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed says US Jerusalem decision could help terrorists

Fateh encourages more protests, refuses to meet Pence

Chinese electric carmaker to open Morocco factory

Iraqi victory over IS remains fragile

Morocco’s renewed ties with South Africa likely to consolidate support for Western Sahara stance

Lebanese security forces fire tear gas at protestors

Syria’s justice system: ‘working without a written law'

Egypt revives controversial desert capital project

Iran sentences fugitive ex-bank chief to jail

Iraq announces 'end of the war against Daesh'

Israeli air strike kills 2 in Gaza

UK foreign minister in Iran to push for Briton's release

Turkey's Erdogan seeks to lead Muslim response on Jerusalem

Iraqi Christians celebrate in town retaken from IS