Equipo Nizkor
        Bookshop | Donate
Derechos | Equipo Nizkor       


Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi 'no longer in Mosul'

Western intelligence sources believe the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is no longer in Mosul, Boris Johnson has said.

In an unusual reference to intelligence, the British foreign secretary said Baghdadi's audio recording issued on Thursday calling for the defeat of the Iraqi forces fighting to liberate Mosul was "cruelly ironic since some of the intelligence we have suggests he had himself vacated the scene himself and is yet using internet media to encourage others to take part in violence".

In his first address for a year, Baghdadi called on his supporters to "wreak havoc", saying the struggle was a prelude to victory. Isis fighters patrolled the Mosul streets broadcasting Baghdadi's call.

Johnson said the battle to recapture Mosul, in the face of Isis's "scorched earth campaign", would take time and represented "the coalition's greatest challenge". He also insisted lessons had been learned from the aftermath of the 2003 Iraq war, making post-victory stabilisation in Mosul as important as the military capture of the city.

There is widespread concern that, despite a year of planning, there is little agreement among the many ethnic groups in the region on the future political structure of Mosul or the surrounding Nineveh province.

Giving an update to parliament on the fight against Isis, Johnson also said efforts were under way to prevent sectarian violence being unleashed as the group was ousted from Mosul and surrounding towns such as Tal Afar.

Johnson said 30,000 civilians had fled the city and the UN had plans in place for as many as 90,000 refugees. But he accepted there were also reports that citizens would be used as human shields to raise the human cost of Iraqi army incursions deeper into the city.

He admitted it was premature to promise that no sectarian reprisals would happen, but he praised the Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, for the language of reconciliation he had so far used and commitments that Shia militia would not be at the forefront of the battle to free the city. Kurdish peshmerga forces have also given a promise not to enter the city.

Mosul is a multi-ethnic city, but the large Sunni population is fearful that liberation will lead to massacres by Shia militias determined to take reprisals against those who collaborated with Isis. Johnson said it was vital that Mosul had a government "that commanded the support of the people of the city". He added: "Everyone understands the paramount of importance of bridging the sectarian divides."

He also warned that once Mosul was freed an Isis counter-insurgency was likely. He said there was already evidence Isis fighters were shaving off their beards to melt back into the community. "This is going to be a long struggle for hearts and minds," he said.

British sources acknowledge it will be the behaviour of the Iraqi military and police forces that will determine the attitude of the city after its expected liberation from Isis.

Johnson also promised that special programmes would be undertaken to give psychological help to 3,500 Yazidis who had been victims of repeated violence inside Mosul. He also hinted that the forces were not going to allow militants to leave the city and head west towards Syria and Raqqa, which would be the last large city held by Isis if Mosul falls.

The mainly Shia Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) militias are said to be trying to cut off any supply or escape route to the west. The leader of the Badr Organisation, the largest of the militias, said his forces would cut off the main western supply route on Thursday, leaving Isis surrounded.

Johnson also refined remarks by the US defence secretary, Ash Carter, that an assault on Raqqa was imminent in the next few weeks, saying instead the aim was to encircle the city as soon as possible. Carter had suggested Isis fighters were planning to leave Raqqa to mount attacks in European cities.

A coalition attack on Raqqa is being delayed partly by the Turkish insistence that Kurdish forces inside the Syrian Democratic Forces should not be allowed to join the offensive.

Johnson said the Turkish contribution needed to be maximised, but admitted "there is a risk of disagreement about the nature of some of the coalition groups, the threat they pose to Turkey and their utility". Turkey has also been warning Iraqi Shia militia not to enter the town of Tal Afar, a largely Turkoman town.

[Source: By Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic editor, The Guardian, London, 03Nov16]

Bookshop Donate Radio Nizkor

War in Afghanistan & Iraq
small logoThis document has been published on 07Nov16 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.