Monday

11th Dec 2017

IS battle in Iraq is 'in name of the whole world'

  • Iraqi forces securing the aid distribution in a village some 35km from Mosul (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Shattered houses destroyed by air strikes, burnt-out cars once hiding improvised bombs, and burnt tyres along the road to mislead air force operations, describe the way leading to the village of Ibrahim Khalil, 35km south-east of Mosul in Iraq.

Signs of a war in which just a few days ago the Iraqi Army took over three nearby villages from the Islamic State militant group (IS) in a larger battle to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which was shockingly quickly overrun by the Islamist forces two years ago.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The UN children's agency starts early fight against reoccurence of polio with quick vaccination (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

The offensive has triggered concerns in the EU that Islamist fighters could come back to Europe.

"This is a threat we must be prepared to face," EU security commissioner Julian King said recently, while Europol chief Rob Wainwright warned that “further military losses, further military pressure on them in the region, indeed might lead to an increased reflex response by the group [IS] in Europe”.

The fighting has also led about 100,000 Iraqis to flee to Syria, according to the UN, in a move that could push thousands to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. An estimated 4.7 million Syrian refugees already live in the three countries, where the EU is trying to keep them from trying to continue to Europe.

The Iraqi Army, along with the Kurdish peshmerga fighters, are moving village by village to reach Mosul.

“They [IS] fought with snipers and car bombs. We had tanks, the operation lasted for only five hours,” Usama Al-Bayti, a young lieutenant from the 9th Armoured Division's 35th Brigade, says of the battle five days ago.

The military dropped pamphlets to tell the locals they are coming, and to go into hiding. Al-Bayti also said since some of the soldiers are from the village, they were able to contact family members who informed them about IS fighters’ positions.

But the army struggles to hold ground - when they moved further into other villages, IS popped up again in areas already considered liberated using extensive underground tunnels they have built.

Al-Bayti, a 23-year-old who is himself from Mosul, and his comrades are stuck for now.

“We shouldn’t be here, we should be advancing,” another officer shrugged.

(Photo: Eszter Zalan)

Locals waiting in line for aid in a recently liberated village from IS

A large crowd gathered on Monday (24 October) in Ibrahim Khalil from nearby villages, and people displaced by local fighting to receive aid from the International Organisation for Migration, and the World Food Programme.

The UN children's agency Unicef, accompanied by journalists, gave rapid polio vaccinations to some 1,200 families to prevent the disease from resurfacing.

“You can’t describe what we have suffered in two and half years under Daesh [the Arabic name used for IS]. It was like hell, in the full meaning of the word,” said Karim Turki Ismail, waiting in line for aid.

He is from the nearby village of El-Adla. He said when the fighting was over and emerged with white flags from hiding, they welcomed Iraqi troops with kisses and hugs.

“There was no work, nothing, life came to a halt. We were scared of everything, I can’t describe in words. There were constant killings, it is a simple thing for them. They beheaded 20-25 people in the village, because they worked for the army or the police,” he said, coming from a village of roughly 200 families.

Fear remains

But fear and a sense of revenge lingers over the advancement of the Iraqi and Kurdish troops.

IS fighters do not wear uniform and can easily mingle among civilians without being noticed.

A military commander on site argued that not everyone should get aid, saying “half of them are Daesh”. But the UN and the aid organisations cannot, and did not discriminate among people who asked for help.

Some Iraqis are suspicious of displaced people, fearing IS fighters might be hiding among them.

Al-Bayti admitted “sleeper cells” might be in the crowd. He said they captured over 10 IS fighters in the recent days, and intelligence officers are questioning them.

Iraqi troops often fly flags on their vehicles with the picture of Imam Ali, a revered Shia leader, and Al-Bayti, a Shia himself, admits there is a desire for revenge against IS, which follows a version of Sunni Islam.

“They kill Shias, Christians, everybody who is not with them,” he said.

“We will kill them [Daesh], there is no prison for them,” he added.

Asked whether Sunnis and Shias will ever be able to live together and reconcile, he said the two factions of Islam lived together in Iraq for a thousands years in peace.

“So we should be able to live together again,” he said with youthful optimism, saying Sunnis who have not risen up against Daesh before, now understand they were wrong.

“We are fighting in the name of the whole world here [against Daesh], and all the world must help us fight these killers.”

US expert warns EU on returning jihadists

Jihadists who left Europe to fight In Iraq and Syria will come back in greater numbers as Islamic State loses territory, a former US security chief has warned.

Two EU states break ranks on Jerusalem

Hungary and the Czech Republic have broken EU ranks on US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite warnings it could bring back 'darker times'.

Watchdogs concerned by EU-US data pact

European data protection authorities tell US to improve oversight on 'Privacy Shield' scheme, otherwise they would go to the EU's highest court.

News in Brief

  1. Greece to move migrants from islands to mainland, says NGO
  2. EU and Japan finalise trade deal
  3. Tusk: During transition period, UK will follow EU law
  4. SPD and CDU/CSU meet next week on 'Grand Coalition'
  5. Erdogan demands treaty update in historic Greece visit
  6. UK will contribute to 2019-2020 EU budget
  7. UK and EU agree: no hard border on Irish island
  8. Citizens' rights will be 'enshrined in UK law'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  2. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  3. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  4. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  5. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  7. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  8. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  9. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  10. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  11. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  2. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  3. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  4. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  5. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  7. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  8. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaPresident Sargsyan Joined EuFoA Honorary Council Inaugural Meeting
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Leaders Should Press Azerbaijan President to End the Detention of Critics