The Rendon Group Snapshot Report: 17 July 2017

by TRG Alerts Admin on July 17, 2017

Iraqi Troops Retake Mosul from the Islamic State

AFPMosul’s old city following its recapture by Iraqi government forces. (AFP)

After more than nine months of fighting, US-backed Iraqi forces claimed to have retaken the city of Mosul from Islamic State forces. Mosul, one of the largest cities in Iraq, was host to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s proclamation that the former off-shoot of al-Qaeda intended to form an Islamist caliphate stretching “all eastern and western extents of the Earth.” Baghdadi is, according to conflicting sources, either dead or hiding in Syria. As Iraqi government troops, Kurdish and Shi’ite militias advanced through the city, many Islamic State fighters shaved off their beards and attempted to escape by intermingling with fleeing refugees. Most of Mosul had been retaken over the course of the spring, but the final push to the Old City was delayed by incremental gains and house to house fighting, to clear Islamic State forces from the area. The battle to retake Mosul has killed thousands and displaced almost 900,000 people. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s declaration of victory in Mosul marks a major turning point for Iraq, and a low point for an Islamic State already in retreat, which finds its capital of Raqqa under siege by Syrian Kurdish forces. In the aftermath of the fighting, the US-led coalition has admitted that its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria have killed more than 480 civilians, though not-for-profit organizations have estimated that this number could be has high as  4,500. Furthermore, human rights organizations had raised alarm about the number of unsolved killings in and around Mosul city and in particular the corpses washing up along the Tigris river. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said evidence points to government forces, killing suspected ISIS members or collaborators without trial or due process.

News summary of events during the week of 10JUL17 – 17JUL17

  • 10JUL: Iraqi forces pushed to retake the last patch of ground in Mosul where Islamic State militants were holding on to a tiny sliver of the Old City, west of the Tigris River.  (AP)
  • 10JUL: Iran congratulated Iraq on its declared victory over the Islamic State in Mosul and offered its help to rebuild the devastated country. (AFP)
  • 10JUL: The Syrian government said it stands in solidarity with Iraq to eliminate what is left of the Islamic State terror organization in both countries. (EFE)
  • 10JUL: Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi returned to Mosul and declared “total victory” against the Islamic State group in the northern city following nine months of grueling urban combat. (AP)
  • 10JUL: The Islamic State group said that its fighters had shot dead 10 soldiers of the Iraqi forces in a liberated area of the Old City of Mosul. (EFE)
  • 10JUL: US President Donald Trump said the recapture of Mosul from Islamic State militants means that the group’s days in Iraq and Syria “are numbered.” (AP)
  • 10JUL: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the victory of Iraqi forces over the Islamic State group in Mosul is a “critical milestone” in the world’s fight against the extremist group. (AP)
  • 10JUL: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed the liberation of Mosul as a significant step in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism. (Xinhua)
  • 11JUL: Amnesty International called for a commission to investigate crimes against civilians in Mosul by all sides in the battle to liberate the Iraqi city from jihadists. (AFP)
  • 11JUL: Sporadic clashes continued in Mosul, even after Iraq declared a “total victory” over the Islamic State group in the city. (AP)
  • 11JUL: Islamic State fighters captured most of a village south of Mosul despite losing control of its stronghold in the city, an Iraqi army officer and residents said, deploying guerrilla-style tactics as its self-proclaimed caliphate crumbles. (Reuters)
  • 11JUL: UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for accountability and dialogue to heal the trauma of Mosul. (AFP)
  • 11JUL: Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reported dead by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (AFP)
  • 12JUL: The US-led coalition says an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight against the Islamic State group in Mosul is “irresponsible.” (AFP)
  • 12JUL: Iraqi forces clashed with Islamic State militants holding out in Mosul’s Old City. (Reuters)
  • 13JUL: Videos allegedly shot in the Mosul area appear to show Iraqi security personnel executing a detainee and brutally beating others, Human Rights Watch said. (AFP)
  • 13JUL: Iraqi officials say they are aware of images circulating online showing Iraqi forces abusing suspected Islamic State militants in Mosul and that an investigation is underway. (AP)
  • 13JUL: The United States said it would add an additional 119 million US dollars for humanitarian aid in Iraq. (Xinhua)
  • 14JUL: Saudi Arabia hailed the Iraqi government’s recapture of Mosul city from Islamic State group jihadists, stressing its solidarity with Baghdad in combating “terrorism” despite their rocky relations. (AFP)
  • 14JUL: Iraqi forces continued to face pockets of resistance from Islamic State fighters in Mosul’s Old City, four days after the prime minister declared victory. (Reuters)
  • 14JUL: More than a million people were displaced from Mosul by the battle in the Iraqi city against the Islamic State group, but nearly 200,000 have returned home, the UN said. (AFP)
  • 14JUL: The Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations political mission in Iraq until July 31, 2018. (Xinhua)
  • 15JUL: Iraqi military forces paraded through Baghdad to celebrate the recent recapture of Iraq’s second city, Mosul, from the Islamic State militia. (Xinhua)
  • 15JUL: The UN estimated that repairing basic infrastructure in the city will cost more than USD 1.3Bn (£990m). (Guardian)
  • 16JUL: Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmad Jamal denied Baghdad’s intention to militarily intervene in Syria to fight the terror group Islamic State (IS). (Xinhua)
  • 17JUL: A top Kurdish counter-terrorism official said he was 99 percent sure that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive and located south of the Syrian city of Raqqa, after reports that he had been killed. (Reuters)
  • 17JUL: Iraqi pro-government militias said that they repelled two attacks by the Islamic State terror organization in the Nineveh desert, west of the city of Mosul, and killed seven of its fighters, as well as shot down one of their drones. (EFE)
  • 17JUL: Revenge attacks against Iraqis accused of siding with the Islamic State group in Mosul were on the rise after Iraqi forces recaptured the city, UN envoy Jan Kubis warned. (AFP)

Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the retaking of Mosul

  • @borzouBorzou Daragahi, BuzzFeed News correspondent
  • @fborello1Federico Borello, Executive Director at the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
  • @hxhassanHassan Hassan, Senior Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy (TIMEP)
  • @leloveluckLouisa Loveluck, Washington Post reporter covering the Middle East
  • @razsalayiRaz Salayi, Iraq campaigner at Amnesty International

Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the retaking of Mosul

Lama Fakih, Deputy Middle East Director, Human Rights Watch

“The bodies of bound and blindfolded men are being found one after the other in and around Mosul and in the Tigris river, raising serious concerns about extrajudicial killings by government forces. The lack of any apparent government action to investigate these deaths undermines the government’s statements on protecting detainee rights.”

  • “Stream of floating bodies near Mosul raises fears of reprisals by Iraqi militias,” Guardian, 15JUL17

Ana Locsin, Iraq country director, Save the Children

“For children and their families to process these horrors and rebuild their lives, psychological support will be absolutely crucial. But right now the world is providing next to no funding for mental health.”

  • Iraq Celebrates Victory over ISIS in Mosul,” Slate, 09JUL17

Lynn Maalouf, Research Director, Amnesty International

“The horrors that the people of Mosul have witnessed and the disregard for human life by all parties to this conflict must not go unpunished. Entire families have been wiped out, many of whom are still buried under the rubble today. The people of Mosul deserve to know, from their government, that there will be justice and reparation so that the harrowing impact of this operation is duly addressed.”

  • “’We lost our houses, our cars, our men’: call to protect Mosul civilians,” Guardian, 10JUL17

Arnaud Quemin, Iraq country director, Mercy Corps

“Nearly every building on the western side of Mosul was completely destroyed. With this level of devastation, it’s very unlikely that the hundreds of thousands of displaced families will be going home anytime soon. This is a critical moment for Mosul.”

  • “Iraq Faces Tough Task of Rebuilding Mosul After ISIS Defeat,” Wall Street Journal, 11JUL17

Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, Analyst, Middle East Forum

“Mosul itself is a range of the army, the police, and then some of these militias … In the city itself, the militias don’t actually play a role in holding security. So, although they may not try to play a role in maintaining security in Mosul city [as opposed to the outskirts], they may want to establish a political presence there in the future,” he said, explaining that this will most likely be the government’s next real threat. Abadi wants to a degree to try and restrain things … In the long run, if these groups wanted to establish a political presence in the future, [Abadi is] less likely to stop that from happening. Intra-militia fighting … already happened to a degree in Basra, which is very removed from the fighting, but it’s controlled by different rival militias and gangs”

  • “What will post-ISIL Mosul look like?,” Al Jazeera, 17JUL17

Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the retaking of Mosul

1. Iraq Celebrates Victory Over ISIS in Mosul, but Risks Remain

Media: New York Times
Byline: Tim Arango
Date: 10 July 2017

MOSUL, Iraq — The fighting is all but over in Mosul, and the billboards are already up: hastily raised signs in which the government urged the city’s Sunni residents to “turn the page” from the terrorists of the Islamic State.

As Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited Mosul to declare victory and call for unity, civilians on the longer-secured east side of the city danced and waved Iraqi flags. Some called for brotherhood between Sunnis and Shiites, or chanted, “By our souls and blood, we sacrifice for you, Iraq!”

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2. Islamic State Turned Desperate in Mosul Fight, Iraqis Say

Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: Asa Fitch and Ali A. Nabhan
Date: 13 July 2017

MOSUL, Iraq—In their final days in Mosul, Islamic State militants dispatched dozens of suicide bombers—including women with babies in their arms—and searched homes for young boys they could force into battle, said Iraqi commanders who led the fight and residents who survived.

Almost all of the terror group’s remaining fighters in Mosul’s Old City wore suicide vests during gunbattles, and the extremists also strapped bombs to disabled civilians, according to Iraqi commanders who described the fierce resistance Islamic State put up as the last stage of the battle unfolded over the past week.

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3. It could take more than a decade to clear Mosul of explosives, U.S. officials say

Media: Checkpoint (Washington Post)
Byline: Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Louisa Loveluck
Date: 13 July 2017

After nine months of vicious street-to-street fighting to drive the Islamic State out of Mosul, it could take many years more to fully remove explosives and other munitions from one of Iraq’s most populous cities, U.S. State Department officials said.

“When I look around the world in some ways there’s nothing like Mosul that we’ve encountered.” said Stanley Brown, the director of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement. “The level of contamination though is not one of those where we’re talking weeks and months, we’re talking years and maybe decades.”

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4. Videos appear to show killing, beatings by Iraq forces

Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Byline: N/A
Date: 13 July 2017

Baghdad, July 13, 2017 (AFP) – Videos allegedly shot in the Mosul area appear to show Iraqi security personnel executing a detainee and brutally beating others, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

Iraq declared victory over the Islamic State group in Mosul earlier this week after a nearly nine-month battle that ravaged the city and took a heavy toll on residents and security forces.

The videos “appear to show Iraqi soldiers and federal police beating and extrajudicially killing detainees”, the rights group said in a statement that included links to the clips, which were posted on Facebook.

In one video, men in Iraqi army uniforms beat a bearded detainee, drag him to the edge of a cliff, throw him off and shoot him and another body at the bottom.

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5. The ‘caliphate’ is all but lost, yet Islamic State’s threat remains potent

Media: Los Angeles Times
Byline: Nabih Bulos, Laura King and Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Date: 14 July 2017

For a time, the caliphate really did exist: a terrifying medieval prophecy sprung to life and captured in the pitiless freeze-frames of propaganda videos. Even as U.S.-led forces in Iraq and Syria deal decisive blows to Islamic State, the group remains a potent threat.

In 2014, ensconced amid the looted bank vaults of Mosul and on the killing fields of Raqqah, Islamic State was at the apex of its strength. From its twin bases in Iraq and Syria, it subjugated millions, dispatched operatives to strike the capitals of Europe, bestrode the cyberspace battlefield, and beheaded captive Americans and other foreigners whom the world’s mightiest militaries were powerless to pluck to safety.

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