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

He eavesdropped on militants’ conversations in his cab. Dialing in from the basement of his home to an Iraqi security officer, he provided intelligence on buildings occupied by the militants, the location of car bombs and explosives factories.

“I used to take the SIM card from my phone and hide it in the sugar jar or a sack of rice,” Mahmoud said.

Abdullah said he went into hiding when the Islamic State took control of Mosul in 2014, rarely sleeping in the same place twice. As a former translator for US troops during the US occupation, he believed he was a target for the militants.

He had also spent time training cadets in the Shiite south and feared the Sunni hardliners would brand him an infidel.

Abdullah hid his telephone in a water filter. His brother, like Mahmoud, drove a taxi to make a living and was a rich source of information.

“DAESH fighters would ride in his cab and he would tell me what he heard,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah worked with police intelligence officer Ayad Jassim to put together a network of 30 informants in towns and villages near Mosul.

Jassim, who was based in the town of Qayara, south of Mosul, confirmed the account.

He said the informants provided details about militants’ movements, their vehicle license plates and where they met.

As a result, airstrikes by the US-led coalition killed as many as 50 militants in some weeks, he added.

“The success of the informers created an atmosphere of mistrust in DAESH. Militants were suspicious of each other,” said Jassim, who said he lost 27 members of his family to the Islamic State.

A US official said the Islamic State was “better at making enemies than they were at grabbing territory.”

Recognizing the threat from informers, the Islamic State made an example of captured spies.

When the group caught Ibrahim and Idrees Nasir breaking a ban on using cellphones, they discovered the men were in contact with Iraqi security forces by dialing the last number they had called, their cousin Nawfal Youssef said.

They were killed with a bullet to the head.

“They hung them by telephone polls on a main street for 10 days. They stuck paper signs on their chests which said: ‘This man is a traitor. You will suffer the same fate if you cooperate with the infidel Iraqi security forces,’” Youssef said.

DEFECTIONS

The conquest of Fallujah, 60km west of Baghdad, in June last year was decisive in the war against the militants, Iraqi officials said.

Fallujah had been the first city to fall to the Islamic State, in January 2014. With its recapture, Iraqis increasingly believed the group could be defeated.

The battle followed a pattern that would become familiar in the months ahead: Iraq’s counterterrorism service, trained by the US military, spearheaded the assault. Airstrikes by the US-led coalition supported the advance. Shiite militias played an important role.

The Iraqi army’s progress on the battlefield last year encouraged increasing numbers of Islamic State militants to betray their leaders, a top commander in the Mosul campaign, General Najm al-Jabouri, said.

The capture of Qayara airbase and town about 60km south of Mosul in July last year was an important moment.

A militant who handled the Islamic State’s communications contacted the army through an intermediary to offer his services, said his handler, Major Sahab al-Jabouri.

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