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

Given the codename Eagle 1, he was taught how to evade capture. Eagle 1 texted Sahab al-Jabouri with details about Islamic State leaders and telephone numbers used by the militants.

Intelligence he supplied helped the army take several towns and led them to a mass grave in the town of Tal Afar, west of Mosul, Sahab al-Jabouri said.

The opening of a new front northwest of Mosul in May triggered more defections, Iraqi military officials said.

Militants offered information in exchange for clemency. The arrangement provided vital intelligence about Islamic State leaders, communications and ammunitions stores.

“It accelerated the battle,” said Najm al-Jabouri, the senior commander in the Mosul campaign. “They told us where the car bombs were and we would strike them before they hit our forces. Their information helped us a lot, especially in identifying where their leaders were.”

Once inside Mosul, US-trained counterterrorism troops cleared militants from the narrow streets. US airpower picked out targets from above.

UNCERTAIN VICTORY

Some Iraqi officials conceded that questions remain over the long-term ability of the main Iraqi army to retain control of territory it has gained with the help of US airpower, Shiite militias and Kurdish fighters. Compared with US-trained soldiers in Iraq’s highly capable counterterrorism service, the bulk of the army is ill-equipped and lacks discipline.

Counterterrorism troops had “the most updated American weapons and gear costing up to US$16,000,” al-Kinani said. “For ordinary soldiers, we give them a suit and vest that cost only US$100.”

Despite its victory, Baghdad’s Shiite-led government cannot count on the loyalty of Mosul’s predominantly Sunni population, said Sheikh Talib al-Shammari, leader of a powerful Sunni tribe that contributed fighters and intelligence to the battle against Islamic State.

Mosul’s Sunnis want more autonomy, he said.

“Mosul residents should have a say in how to administrate their own city without being treated as second-class citizens. We will have zero tolerance for any attempt from Baghdad to return Mosul to being governed by armed force; we will resist and find a million ways to ask for our own autonomy,” al-Shammari said.

Government adviser Zuhair al-Chalabi said talk of autonomy was “the language of losers. Mosul is proud of its genuine Iraqi identity and no one will accept this language.”

Mosul is not alone in challenging Baghdad’s authority.

In the north of the country, Iraq’s Kurds are intent on building an independent state. They voted overwhelmingly for independence in a referendum on Sept 25.

Baghdad has said such moves are unconstitutional.

Al-Abadi’s government insists its focus is on ending sectarian strife.

The US is afraid a fragmentation of Iraq could further destabilize the Middle East, while Shiite Iran worries a breakup would diminish its influence. Iran holds sway over the Baghdad government and Iraq’s Shiite militias.

For some people in Mosul, Iraq’s wrecked economy and rampant corruption are the most pressing problems.

Transparency International ranked Iraq 166 out of 176 in last year’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Standing near a bridge between east and west Mosul, a student informer, codename Salah al-Iraqi, doubted prosperity would return to his city.

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