Fri, Oct 06, 2017 - Page 9 News List

Informers played a vital role in retaking Mosul from the Islamic State

Whether for freedom, revenge or money, hundreds of residents provided intelligence that officials said was vital to defeating the extremist group and reducing the toll of the fighting

By Michael Georgy, Ahmed Rasheed and Raya Jalabi  /  Reuters, MOSUL, Iraq

A few were motivated by money to put food on the table. Islamic State fighters defected from the militant group when they saw its downfall was “inevitable and imminent.”

Mosul residents interviewed by Reuters pointed to challenges ahead.

The people of the city might have rejected the Islamic State, but that does not mean they accept Baghdad’s rule, they said.

Distrust of the Shiite-led government, headed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, runs deep among Mosul’s Sunnis. Some are enviously watching moves by Kurds in northern Iraq toward declaring an independent state.


From early last year, Iraqi military intelligence began reaching out to possible informants and allies through intermediaries, Iraqi officials said.

Intelligence officers first turned to the Sunni tribes that had been instrumental in driving out the Islamic State’s precursor, al-Qaeda, in 2006 to 2007.

However, fear of the Islamic State was holding the tribes back, army intelligence officer Lieutenant Colonel Salah al-Kinani said.

For instance, one tribesman wanted a guarantee that the Islamic State would not burn him alive if he was caught.

Then, in August last year there was a breakthrough.

Al-Kinani and his men made contact with a close aide to al-Baghdadi, Ali al-Jabouri, also known as Abu Omar al-Jabouri, a former officer in former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard who had joined the Islamic State when it overran Mosul in 2014.

Saddam-era officers had been a powerful factor in the rise of the Islamic State, often motivated by a shared hatred of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. However, some of these officers, al-Jabouri among them, had since grown disillusioned with the Islamic State’s brutal methods and the growing influence of foreign fighters who had flocked to Mosul.

An Iraqi intelligence officer began negotiating with al-Jabouri through members of his tribe, Kinani said.

After initially hesitating, al-Jabouri agreed to lead 60 men in a revolt against the Islamic State to coincide with the start of the army’s ground assault in October last year.

The Iraqi military would supply al-Jabouri with arms and ammunition. It gave al-Jabouri and his men assurances that they would not be prosecuted for past crimes.

However, the plot failed. The Islamic State became suspicious of a fighter loyal to al-Jabouri and seized his mobile phone, which revealed details of the plan to deliver arms and ammunition to houses inside Mosul, al-Kinani said.

Under torture, the fighter told all.

“DAESH succeeded in infiltrating al-Jabouri’s ring and executed him and almost all his men only a couple of months later,” al-Kinani said.

The Islamic State often tortured captives for weeks or months to extract information, officials said.

Its “courts” handed down death penalties.


While Iraqi intelligence officials were talking to al-Jabouri, they also began seeking out civilians in Mosul whose relatives had been killed by militants. They calculated that desire for revenge might make them willing recruits.

Mahmoud, a cab driver, was one such informer.

He said that the Islamic State had jailed his brother and cousin in July 2014 for giving the Iraqi army information on its movements in Mosul.

He never saw them again, he said.

“After they took my brother away, I wanted to get back at them,” said Mahmoud, who asked that his full name be withheld.

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