Thursday

18th Jul 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • 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.

News in Brief

  1. Nato chief warns world against more Russian missiles
  2. Germany closes Amazon probe as EU opens another
  3. Report: US chipmaker Qualcomm set for new EU fine
  4. Ireland fears Brexit time zone split
  5. Selmayr to leave EU commission post
  6. EU 'appeasement' of Iran like that of Nazis, Israel says
  7. Report: EU anti-trust chief to go after Amazon
  8. Report: France to back Kovesi for EU prosecutor

Analysis

EU should stop an insane US-Iran war

"If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!", US president Donald Trump tweeted on Monday (20 May).

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Timmermans trolls 'idiot' Brexit negotiators
  2. Rudderless Europe: Will real Germany please stand up?
  3. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  4. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  5. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  6. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  7. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  8. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us