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Battle of Mosul (2016–2017)

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The Battle of Mosul (2016–2017) (Arabic: معركة الموصل‎, Ma'rakat al-Mawṣil; Sorani Kurdish: شەڕی مووسڵ‎, Şeriy Mûsil) was a major military campaign launched by the Iraqi Government forces with allied militias, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and international forces to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),[65][66][67] which had seized the city in June 2014.[68] During the military intervention against ISIL, Iraqi and Peshmerga forces had already made unsuccessful attempts to retake the city in 2015 and again in 2016, despite limited gains.

Battle of Mosul (2016–17)
Part of the Iraqi Civil War (2014–2017) and
the American-led intervention in Iraq
Battle of Mosul (2016–2017) late February 2017.svg
Map of the situation in Mosul on 24 February 2017. Before the end of the month, the ISF would complete the encirclement of ISIL forces. The pocket fell in July.      Iraqi government control     ISIL control     Peshmerga control
Date16 October 2016 – 20 July 2017[a]
(9 months and 4 days)
Location
Northern Iraq
 • Southwest Erbil Governorate
 • Nineveh Governorate
Result Decisive Allied victory[9][10][11]
Territorial
changes
  • The ISF recaptured all of eastern Mosul by 24 January 2017. The Old City and the rest of Mosul was retaken by 21 July 2017.[12][13][14][15]
  • By 3 December 2016, the ISF and Peshmerga had captured a total of 5,677 square kilometers (2,192 sq mi) and 369 villages from ISIL.[16][17][18]
  • Iraqi forces launch another offensive on 25 April 2017, to secure the Iraqi–Syrian border[19]
  • The PMU captures 360 villages, and an area of around 14,000 square kilometres to west of Mosul, by mid-June 2017[20]
Belligerents

Iraq Iraq[1]

CJTF–OIR

 Iran[6]
Supported by:
 Pakistan[7]
 Hezbollah[8]
 Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
Commanders and leaders
Iraq Lt. Gen. Abdul Amir Rashid Yarallah
(commander of the operation)
Iraq Lt. Gen. Talib Shaghati al-Kenan
(Joint Military Command, ICTS)
Iraq Maj. Gen. Fadhil Jalil al-Barwari
(ISOF commander)
Iraq Lt. Gen. Abdul Ghani al-Assadi
(Mosul Counter Terrorism Service commander)
Iraq Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis[21]
(Head of the PMF)
Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani
(President of Regional Kurdish Government)[22]
United States Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend
(CJTF-OIR commander)
Muhammad Kawarithmi[8]
(Hezbollah commander of Iraqi operations)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
(Leader of ISIL)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Haqqi Esmaeil Owaid [23]
(a.k.a. Abu Ahmed; ISIL Governor of Mosul)
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Ahmad Khalaf al-Jabouri
(ISIL military commander of Mosul)[24]
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Aymam al-Mosuli [25]
(Commander of the special security forces)
Units involved
See Anti-ISIL forces order of battle See ISIL order of battle
Strength

Total: 108,500–114,000 fighters[26]

  • Iraq 54,000–60,000 ISF troops[27][28]
  • 14,000 paramilitary troops[27]
  • Iraqi Kurdistan 40,000 Peshmerga troops[27]
Support:
450 CJTF–OIR personnel[29]
6,000–12,000 militants
(1,000+ foreigners)[30][31][32][33]
Casualties and losses

Iraq 1,200–1,400 killed, 6,000–7,000+ wounded[34][35]
Iraqi Kurdistan 30 killed, 70–100 wounded[36]
United States 2 killed, 20 wounded[37]
Iran 3 killed[38][39]
Total: 1,235–1,435+ killed, 6,090–7,120+ wounded (per U.S.)

Iraq Iraqi Kurdistan 9,100+ killed
(per ISIL)[40]
7,757–10,859+ (per Iraqi commanders during the battle)[41]
16,467 killed (per Iraqi diplomatic official)[42]
25,000+ killed (per top Iraqi commander)[43]

6,340 civilians killed and 17,124 injured (as of mid-March 2017, per observer Joel Wing)[44]
8,000+ civilians killed or injured (as of 5 May 2017; per The Telegraph)[45]
5,805 civilians killed (19 Feb.–19 June 2017, by Iraqi/Coalition strikes, per AI)[46][47]
9,606–11,000 civilians killed (per AP)[48]
40,000 civilians killed (per Asayish)[49]
2,521+ civilians killed, 1,673 wounded (per UN)[50]
France 2 French journalists killed[51][52]
Iraq 47 Iraqi journalists killed, 55 wounded (per Federation of Arab Journalists)[53]

Displaced:
1,072,170 (per IOM)[54][55]
920,000+ (per the UN and Iraq)[56]
a The Iraqi Government formally declared victory on 10 July 2017,[9][10] but the fighting continued,[57][58] with heavy airstrikes and shelling,[59][60][61] until 20 July.[62][13][14] The Iraqi military and CENTCOM claimed that these were "clearance operations".[63][64]

The offensive, dubbed Operation "We Are Coming, Nineveh" (قادمون يا نينوى; Qadimun Ya Naynawa),[69][70] began on 16 October 2016, with forces besieging ISIL-controlled areas in the Nineveh Governorate surrounding Mosul,[71][72][73] and continued with Iraqi troops and Peshmerga fighters engaging ISIL on three fronts outside Mosul, going from village to village in the surrounding area in the largest deployment of Iraqi troops since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[74] The battle was also the world's single largest military operation in nearly 15 years, the largest since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[44]

At dawn on 1 November 2016, Iraqi Special Operations Forces entered the city from the east.[75] Met with fierce fighting, the government advance into the city was slowed by elaborate defenses and by the presence of civilians,[76] but the Iraqi Prime Minister declared "full liberation of eastern side of Mosul" on 24 January 2017.[77] Iraqi troops began their offensive to recapture western Mosul on 19 February 2017.[78]

On 9 July 2017, the Iraqi Prime Minister arrived in Mosul to announce the victory over ISIL, and an official declaration of victory was proclaimed on 10 July.[79][9][10][80] However, heavy clashes continued in a final pocket of ISIL resistance in the Old City, for almost another 2 weeks.[81][13][14][15] It was estimated that removing the explosives from Mosul and repairing the city over the next 5 years would require $50 billion (2017 USD),[82] while Mosul's Old City alone would cost about $1 billion USD to repair.[10]

The Battle of Mosul was concurrent with the Battle of Sirte (2016) in Libya, and with the Raqqa campaign conducted by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against ISIL's capital city and stronghold in Syria.[83]

Contents

BackgroundEdit

 
Map of the territorial control during the 2016 Mosul offensive, as of August 2016

General backgroundEdit

Mosul is Iraq's second most populous city. It fell to 800–1,500 ISIL militants in June 2014, because of the largely Sunni population's deep distrust of the primarily Shia Iraqi government, and its corrupt armed forces.[30][84] It was in the Great Mosque in Mosul that ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the beginning of ISIL's self-proclaimed "caliphate" which spans Iraq and Syria.[84] The original population of 2.5 million has fallen to approximately 1.5 million after two years of ISIL rule. The city was once extremely diverse, with ethnic minorities including Armenians, Yazidis, Assyrian, Turkmen, and Shabak people, all of whom have suffered and continue to suffer considerably under the (majority Sunni Arab) Islamic State.[85] Mosul remains the last stronghold of ISIL in Iraq,[86] and the anticipated offensive to reclaim it was promoted as the "mother of all battles".[87][88][89][90]

Preparations for the battleEdit

In the weeks leading up to the ground offensive, the US-led CJTF – OIR coalition bombed ISIL targets, and the Iraqi Army made gradual advances on the city.[74] Royal Air Force's Reaper drones, Typhoons, and Tornados targeted "rocket launchers, ammunition stockpiles, artillery pieces and mortar positions" in the 72 hours before the ground assault began.[91] Leaflets dropped on the city by the Iraqi military advised young male residents to "rise up" against ISIL when the battle began.[86] To prepare defenses against the assault, ISIL operatives dug 4 m2 holes around the city, which they planned to fill with burning oil to reduce visibility[74] and slow advances.[28] They also built hundreds of elaborate tunnels in the villages surrounding Mosul, rigged with explosives and booby-traps, and laid improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and mines along the roads.[92] There was considerable concern that ISIL might employ chemical weapons against soldiers and civilians.[93]

According to Iraqi sources, the assault towards Mosul was being waged from Al-Khazer axis (east of Mosul), Mosul Dam (northern axis), Baashiqa axis (eastern axis), Al-Qayyarah axis (southern axis), and Talul el-Baj- Al-Khadr axis (southwestern axis).[94]

Forces involved in the offensiveEdit

 
U.S. Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force, at Qayyarah Airfield West, 22 September 2016

About 3,000–5,000 ISIL fighters were estimated to be in Mosul city, according to the United States Department of Defense.[95] Other estimates ranged as low as 2,000 and high as 12,000 ISIL fighters.[30][33] Mosul Eye estimated approximately 8,000–9,000 fighters loyal to ISIL, with "half of them... highly trained, and the rest... either teenagers or not well trained. About ten percent of the fighters are foreign (Arabs and non-Arabs). The rest are Iraqis. Most are from Nineveh's townships and districts."[96] Prior to the start of the battle, in late September 2016, it was estimated that around 20,000 ISIL fighters were living in Mosul,[97] many of whom later fled the city to Syria and Ar-Raqqah, when Iraqi forces began to besiege Mosul.

The Iraqi-led coalition was initially estimated by CNN to have 94,000 members,[98] but this number was later revised upward to 108,500;[26] 54,000 to 60,000 Iraqi security forces (ISF) soldiers, 16,000 Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) fighters (also referred to as PMU), and 40,000 Peshmerga (including approximately 200 Iranian Kurdish female fighters from the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK))[99] were deployed in the battle.[27][28] The Iraqi and Peshmerga forces deployed for the Mosul operation were estimated to have outnumbered the ISIL militants present by 10-to-1.[44]

Among the PMF units, the Nineveh Plain Protection Units composed of Assyrians are among the paramilitary forces in the government coalition.[100][101] Shia militias, including several brigades of the paramilitary organization Hashd al-Shaabi, the Peace Companies, Kata'ib Hezbollah, the League of the Righteous, the Badr Organization, Saraya Ashura, Saraya Khorasani, Kata'ib al-Imam Ali, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba and Turkmen Brigades also took part.[102][103] The Ezidi community of the Sinjar region contributed the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBŞ) and Êzîdxan Women's Units (YJÊ),[104] which are operating in concert with Sunni Arab Shammar tribal militias and People's Defence Forces (HPG) of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).[105] Other Assyrian forces involved in the planned offensive includes the Nineveh Plain Forces (NPF) and Dwekh Nawsha, who are allied to the Peshmerga.[106][107]

 
Peshmerga soldiers prepare to conduct a combined arms live-fire exercise with an Italian instructor near Erbil, on 12 October 2016.

An international coalition of 60 nations, led by the United States, is supporting Iraq's war against ISIL, providing logistical and air support, intelligence, and advice.[108] The international coalition forces are headquartered 60 kilometres (37 mi) south of Mosul at Qayyarah Airfield West (or Q-West) in Qayyarah, which was retaken from ISIL in June.[109] About 560 U.S. troops from the 101st Airborne Division were deployed to Q-West for the battle, including command and control elements, a security detachment, an airfield operations team, and logistics and communications specialists.[110] The U.S. deployed HIMARS rocket launchers and M777 howitzers, manned by the 101st's 2nd Brigade Combat Team and the Golf Company, 526th Brigade Support Battalion. The French army deployed four CAESAR howitzers and 150 to 200 soldiers at Qayyarah, with 600 more French troops announced at the end of September.[111] An additional 150 French soldiers are in Erbil, east of Mosul, training Peshmerga.[103] The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, with a squadron of 24 Rafale M jets, was deployed from Toulon to the Syrian coast to support the operation against ISIL through airstrikes and reconnaissance missions; 12 other Rafale jets are operating out of French Air Force bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).[112][113] 80 Australian special forces soldiers and 210 Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) soldiers were also deployed to assist the Peshmerga. In addition, the Canadian Forces 21 Electronic Warfare Regiment was also reported to be in the area, working to intercept and relay ISIL communications, while a Role 2 Canadian Army field hospital with 60 personnel has been set up to treat Peshmerga casualties.[114][115]

 
An Iraqi soldier during a course on chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense training at Camp Taji. Coalition forces expressed fears ISIL may use chemical weapons during the Battle of Mosul.

The Ba'ath loyalists group, known to be led by Saddam Hussein's former vice president Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, issued a statement before the start of operations calling for the people of the city to start an uprising against ISIL and announced that they will fight the "terrorist organization."[116][117]

Timeline of the battleEdit

AftermathEdit

Post-victoryEdit

July

On 22 July, Iraqi security forces arrested ISIL's minister of agriculture, Falah Rashid, in western Mosul.[118] Four police personnel, including a lieutenant general, were killed at al-Maash market after clashing with ISIL militants on 25 July.[119] ISIL senior leader, Saad Maan, who held the post of "tribal affairs bureau for southern Mosul" was arrested in eastern Mosul while crossing the Tigris River carrying a fake ID.[120]

Meanwhile, many news outlets reported the end of the battle during the mid-to-late-July period with the focus of Iraqi forces now being hunting down surviving militants, clearing explosives and dead bodies.[121][122][123][123]

Nineveh police captain Saeed Najm said on 30 July that three ISIL leaders were killed while escaping western Mosul to the east via Tigris.[124]

August

Sudan Tribune reported on 5 August that Ali Abdel-Ma'arouf (aka Abu al-Asbat Al-Sudani), a Sudanese national, who was ISIL head of prisons and a top legislator, was killed during recent clearing operations in Mosul.[125] On 8 August, a security source said that ISF in coordination with the Nineveh police, had arrested Ahmed Sabhan Abdel Wahid al-Dulaimi, a senior ISIL intelligence official, in east Mosul.[126] Federal Police forces killed a senior ISIL judge, Abdul-Sattar Mohamed Ali, aka Abi al-Hakam al-Aawar, in a raid at a basement in the Old City.[127] On 10 August, a source told that two civilians were killed and three others were wounded when ISIL gunmen opened fire on them. Meanwhile, Federal Police chief, Shaker Jawdat, said in a statement that 47 ISIL members have been killed and arrested since the beginning of July. He also added that 192 explosive belts, ten tons of ammonia nitrates and five barrels of C4 and six booby-trapping workshops were seized.[128]

Jawdat stated on 11 August that a workshop for manufacturing Katyusha rockets was found in Mesherfa district. Nineveh police intelligence department's Cap. Ahmed al-Obeidi told BasNews that they confiscated the biggest workshop used by ISIL to manufacture explosive belts and rockets in western Mosul.[129]

Security forces arrested an unnamed ISIL military commander for eastern Mosul area, along with ten others in Mosul on 14 August.[130]

Federal Police chief, Lt. Gen. Shaker Jawdat, said in a statement that an ISIL chemical reservoir was found in Mekkawi street in the Old City. It contained C4, ammonia and other substances.[131]

October

Lieutenant-Colonel Abdul Salam al-Jabouri said on 12 October that some ISIL terrorists who had survived the military offensive in Mosul were detected in the marshlands area alongside near the Tigris, after they sent threats to some Tribal Mobilization leaders via SMS.[132]

January 2018

Abu Omer, an ISIL leader who was notorious for appearing in ISIL's execution videos, was reported to have been captured in January 2018.[133] Hisham al-Hashimi, adviser to the Iraqi government and other Middle Eastern government on ISIL matters, confirmed his identity.[134]

Subsequent offensivesEdit

During the last stages of battle to retake Mosul, Lise Grande stated that per an initial assessment, basic infrastructure repair will cost over $1 billion USD. She stated that while stabilization in east Mosul can be achieved in two months, in some districts of Mosul it might take years, with six out of 44 districts almost completely destroyed. All the districts of Mosul received light or moderate damage.[135] Per the United Nations, 15 districts out of the 54 residential districts in the western half of Mosul were heavily damaged while at least 23 were moderately damaged in the battle. The UN also estimated that more than 5,000 buildings have been damaged and another 490 were destroyed in the Old City alone during the battle.[136] Amnesty International accused Iraqi and United States forces of using unnecessarily powerful weapons.[137] Sporadic clashes occurred after the victory declaration as Iraqi troops targeted holdouts.[138] Fighting continued in the Imam Gharbi village to the south of Mosul[139] and it was recaptured by Iraqi forces on 20 July.[140] According to the American Schools of Oriental Research, IS damaged 15 religious sites in Mosul, while Coalition forces damaged 47, of which 38 were largely destroyed.[141]

The Iraqi forces launched a ground offensive to retake Tal Afar, one of the last cities held by the militants, located 55 kilometres (34 mi) west of Mosul, on 20 August 2017.[142] The city was captured on 28 August, with Iraqi forces capturing the rest of the district by 2 September.

Following the end of the Tal Afar offensive, the Iraqi Army launched another offensive to retake the ISIL-controlled Hawija Pocket on 20 September 2017.[143]

Humanitarian issuesEdit

Up to 1.5 million civilians lived in the city, sparking concerns among various organizations of a large humanitarian crisis.[144] Lise Grande, the United Nations' humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, stated, "In a worst-case scenario, we're literally looking at the single largest humanitarian operation in the world in 2016."[144] Save the Children warned that massive civilian bloodshed was likely, unless safe routes were authorized to let civilians flee.[145] The U.S. government has accused ISIL of using civilians as human shields.[146]

ISIL abuses, abductions and atrocitiesEdit

Fears that civilians could be used as human shields by ISIL were realized as it was confirmed the group had been abducting civilians from villages for this purpose, which received widespread condemnation from human rights groups and the United Nations Security Council.[147][148]

ISIL has reportedly threatened to execute civilians trying to flee. Snipers, landmines, toxic weapons and trenches were preventing people from attempting to escape.[74] Iraqi officials, via radio broadcasts and leaflets dropped over the city, warned civilians to stay in their homes. Leaflets advised residents of various precautions to take including instructions to tape over their windows to protect from flying glass and to disconnect gas pipes.[86][149]

Shortly after the battle began, news surfaced of ISIL kidnapping and executing civilians in Mosul. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis stated that ISIL was using civilians as human shields and holding people against their will in the city.[150]

The International Business Times reported that ISIL has forced boys from Mosul as young as 12 to fight for them, and that ISIL had trained the children to "behead prisoners and make suicide bombs".[151]

An Iraqi intelligence source stated on 21 October that ISIL executed 284 men and boys abducted from Mosul for the purpose of using them as human shields. The civilians were shot and put in a mass grave. A United Nations official said the UN is "gravely worried" about the fate of 200 families from Somalia and 350 families from Najafia who were abducted Monday by ISIL, who could be used as human shields.[152]

UN sources stated that four people died from inhaling toxic fumes after ISIL set fire to the Al-Mishraq Chemical Factory on 23 October.[153]

On 26 October, CNN reported that ISIL has been carrying out "retribution killings" of civilians as revenge for others welcoming Iraqi and Peshmerga troops in villages restored under government control.[154]

According to Ravina Shamdasani, of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, ISIL executed 232 people near Mosul in late October for defying its orders and had taken tens of thousands of people to use as human shields against advancing Iraqi forces. She claimed that ISIL "executed 42 civilians in Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul. Also on Wednesday, ISIL executed 190 former Iraqi Security Forces for refusing to join them, in the Al Ghazlani base near Mosul."[155]

Iraqi forces evacuated more than 1,000 civilians from the front lines surrounding Mosul on 26 October, moving them to the Khazir region.[156] Civilians on the southern front had reported that their relatives had been taken by retreating ISIL fighters to be used as human shields.[157]

In October 2016, Iraqi government has launched a military operation in Mosul to eject ISIL. Based on reports provided by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, more than a million residents in Mosul are at risk and many of them were killed or used as human shields against the advance of Iraqi army. Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor warns that Iraqi government and international forces have to put an end to the humanitarian crisis in Mosul and provide its residents with their basic needs. ISIL has driven some of Mosul's residents out of their neighborhoods while others were prevented from fleeing to the regions controlled by Iraqi army. Human rights are violated by both ISIL, which drove about 550 families from the villages of As-Semalyya and An-Nejafyya, and Iraqi troops which captured 1,500 civilians from mosques and schools in the Dybka refugee camp. On 21 October 2016, another human rights violation committed by Iraqi army and police as they arrested almost hundreds of civilians and executing some villagers in the south of Mosul claiming that they are hosting ISIL militias. On the same day, Iraqi airstrikes targeted a funeral in Kirkuk province causing death of 20 people and injuring dozens others. Mosul's population reached to 1.5 million people, including 600,000 children who are besieged by ISIL militias and suffering from the shortage of food, water, electricity and medical care. ISIL militias monopolize the local hospitals in Mosul and Al-Hemdanyya District to treat only its supporters and members. About 690 families have been evacuated from the Makhmoor District east of Mosul and Al-Hemdanyya District to the Al- Hood camp.[158]

On 31 October, a member of the Nineveh Provincial Council stated that ISIL executed 300 civilians and former security members in the village of Moshairefa, north of Mosul. They had been imprisoned and accused of collaborating with the government.[159]

Mosul Eye reported on 3 November that mortar strikes killed five civilians in Mosul.[160]

Two roadside bombs struck a convoy of civilians fleeing Hawija on 4 November as the families were being taken to the town of Al-Alam. At least 18 people were killed, a police officer said.[161]

On 7 November, the Iraqi War Media Office announced that the bodies of estimated 300 people were found in a mass grave at the agriculture college in Hamam al-Alil, south of Mosul. Many had been decapitated. Iraqi forces made the discovery after noticing the smell. Abdul Rahman al-Waggaa, a member of the Nineveh provincial council, said ISIL had used the college as "a killing field."[162][163] The Iraqi War Media Office said there would be an investigation into the murders: "Inside the building of the Faculty of Agriculture there is a new crime: the presence of 100 beheaded bodies of citizens killed by terrorists, and a special team will be sent to inspect this heinous crime," the office said in a statement.[164]

The United Nations reported on 8 November that ISIL had abducted 295 former Iraqi Security Forces members and 1,500 families from Hamam al-Alil, forcing them to retreat with the militants into Mosul.[165]

On 9 November, it was reported that ISIL killed at least 20 civilians after accusing them of being spies. Five crucified bodies were displayed at a traffic intersection, while others were left hanging from traffic signals and electricity poles.[166] Civilians who had fled the city in the previous few days reported that ISIL was using suicide bombs to attack residents in addition to Iraqi forces.[167]

BBC News reported on 11 November that ISIL executed 40 civilians in Mosul after accusing them of being spies. One man was killed for defying the ban on mobile phone use. They were shot and their bodies displayed around the city.[168]

The U.N. Office of Human Rights provided new details that ISIL is using chemical weapons and has stockpiled "large quantities" of ammonia and sulfur. "We can only speculate how they intend to use this," U.N. spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. "We are simply raising the alarm that this is happening, that this is being stockpiled."[169]

On 17 November, Iraqi forces found two more mass graves near Hamam Alil, containing at least 250 bodies. One of the graves was inside a well. "We believe the well contains more than 200 bodies. ISIS used this mass grave to kill and dump people over the past two years," Iraqi Federal Police Commander Brig. Gen. Faris Radhi Abbas told CNN.[170]

In late February 2017, Iraqi forces uncovered the largest known mass grave dug by ISIL at the "Khafsa Sinkhole" near Mosul, containing the bodies of 4,000 Iraqi government personnel. They had been killed by ISIL shortly after the Fall of Mosul in June 2014.[171]

According to the United Nations, ISIL killed at least 163 civilians on 1 June 2017 in the al-Shira neighbourhood to prevent them from fleeing western Mosul.[172][173][174]

On 3 July 2017, forensic medicine doctors recovered 74 dead bodies that were likely to be killed by ISIL for trying to flee on the streets in al-Zanjili district, northwest of the city.[175]

On 24 July 2017, a mass grave containing sixty bodies, was discovered in western Mosul, with 44 of them belongs to security agents of the Nineveh police. Iraqi Cap. Ahmed al-Obaidi said the body showed signs of torture, and some which seemed to have been shot in the heads.[176] On 2 November 2017, UN assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) published a report on liberation of Mosul and concluded that ISIL members should face "international crimes" charges.[177]

Allegations against anti-ISIL forcesEdit

The presence with Iraqi forces of several militias with histories of human rights abuses was criticized; Human Rights Watch called for Shia militias from the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) not to enter Mosul, following allegations of abuse of Sunni Muslims in anti-ISIL operations in Fallujah, Tikrit and Amirli.[178][179][180] Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi later stated that only the Iraqi army and the Iraqi national police would enter the city itself.[73][181]

On 21 October, International Business Times reported that "disturbing and graphic footage posted to social media allegedly shows Iraqi security forces torturing and interrogating young children for information about ISIL as they attempt to retake Mosul from the Islamic State terror group."[182]

On 11 November, the multiple news outlets including Al Arabiya,[183] Daily Mirror[184] and Middle East Monitor reported about a leaked video of the Iraqi Special Forces allegedly murdering an Iraqi Sunni child by running him over with an M1 Abrams tank. The boy, identified as Muhammad Ali Al-Hadidi, was dragged through the desert and shot before the tank was run over him. The men in the video were identified as Shia militiamen and yelled sectarian slurs at the child as well asking the cameraman to film them doing it. The video caused outrage on social media, with Arab users of social media using the hashtag #CrushedByATank (Arabic: #السحق_بالدبابة‎). The soldiers were wearing the insignia of the Iraqi Special Forces.[185]

On 19 January, Iraqi forces summarily executed three civilians who they later claimed were IS suspects.[186]

The Middle East Monitor claimed Iraqi Shia Groups of targeting Sunni Arabs "in a possible genocide", and claimed that "Sunni Arabs are being targeted for ethnic cleansing by Iraqi Christians".[187][188] However, Middle East Monitor was the sole origin of the report.[189][190]

On 17 March, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike in Mosul killed more than 200 civilians.[191][192] Amnesty International's senior investigator on crisis response said: "The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law."[193]

On 12 July, after the Iraqi Government's declaration of victory, a video posted online by the Mosul Eye blog showing a man suspected to be an ISIL fighter was being held in a building and then dragged by soldiers across an open area to a ledge above a drop of at least 30 feet, where another body lied motionless. A second video also showed a man in Iraqi Army fatigues gunning down an unarmed man kneeling in front of a car.[194] The Iraqi government later said they were investigating the footage.[195]

An estimate in mid-July 2017 by Kurdish intelligence put the total number of civilian casualties at 40,000. The largest portion of this loss of life is attributable to the unyielding artillery bombardment by Iraqi government forces – in particular, units of the Iraqi federal police – of west Mosul. Killings by ISIL and air strikes were two other significant sources of civilian deaths.[196]

On 19 July, Human Rights Watch published a report stating that Iraqi forces extrajudicial killings, torture and unlawful detention in the final phase of the battle and details the discovery of the corpses of 17 men, executed in an empty building in west Mosul, on 17 July.[197]

On 27 July, Human Rights Watch urged the US government to suspend all support for the Iraqi Army's 16th Division after members of the 16th Division lead four naked men, suspected to be ISIL fighters, down an alleyway, after which they heard multiple gunshots. One of the observers saw the bodies of a number of naked men lying in a doorway, one of whom appeared to have been handcuffed and had a rope tied around his legs.[198] The UN report On 2 November 2017, also urged Iraqi authorities to "investigate alleged violations and human rights abuses" by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and associated forces during the military operation.[177]

Displacements and relief effortsEdit

Italian Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, arrived in Erbil on 17 October to meet with Kurdish officials.[199] The UN has set up five refugee camps capable of taking up to 45,000 people and has the capability of taking in up to 120,000 if more sites are available for camps.[200] Dozens of families from Mosul arrived in the Al-Hawl camp in Rojava, Northern Syria, bringing the number of Iraqis in al-Hawl to more than 6,000. On 18 October, more than 2,000 refugees from Mosul were attempting to cross into Syria, according to the People's Defense Units (YPG).[201] The UN is attempting to communicate with citizens inside Mosul that they should not flee to the West of the city toward Syria, an area still under ISIL control, but to the camps in the east.[202]

Australia announced it would donate USD$7.5 million in humanitarian aid to the operation, and New Zealand pledged NZ$1 million (USD$718,600).[203]

 
A displaced Sunni Arab family from Mosul

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it had trained 90 Iraqi medics in "mass casualty management" as part of its preparations for the Mosul operation, with a special focus on responding to chemical attacks, AP reported. ISIL has previously used chemical weapons in attacks on Iraqi and coalition forces, and there are fears that it might do so again inside Mosul, where more than a million civilians live.[204]

On 3 November, Kurdish and UN aid workers said more than 40,000 refugees had fled to Kurdistan in the first few weeks of fighting. Ten new refugee camps have been built in the Dohuk Governorate, Erbil Governorate and in the town of Khazir.[205] According to the United Nations and UNICEF, 22,000 people had been displaced, including more than 9,000 children.[206]

On 6 November, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated that 33,996 people had been displaced from the Mosul District. 63 percent of families are missing civil documentation and 21 percent of families are headed by a female. The previous 48 hours saw a 53 percent increase in displacement.[55] The following day, WHO announced it had established 82 "rapid response teams" to prepare for possible concerns among civilians fleeing Mosul, including health epidemics such as cholera, and exposure to chemicals and smoke from burning oil wells.[207] A particular concern is potential disease outbreaks among young children who have not been immunized since ISIL took over the city in June 2014.[208]

More than 900 Iraqi civilians have fled to the Al-Hawl refugee camp located in the Rojava region of northeastern Syria, while another 700 civilians run away to the Turkish-Iraqi borders.[209]

Use of chemical weaponsEdit

The World Health Organization stated on 4 March 2017 that twelve people were being treated in Erbil for possible exposure to chemical weapons in Mosul. The WHO said that they had enabled "an emergency response plan to safely treat men, women and children who may be exposed to the highly toxic chemical[s]" and were preparing for more patients with exposure to these agents. According to the UN, four patients show "severe signs associated with exposure to a blister agent", which they were exposed to on the eastern side of the city.[210][211]

In April 2017, American and Australian advisory forces embedded with Iraqi units were attacked with low-grade, "rudimentary" chemical weapons during an offensive.[212]

ContextEdit

International reactionsEdit

  France
  • Jean-Marc Ayrault, France's Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on 27 October, "We know that we will face significant challenges and it is our responsibility to face them together, alongside Iraq, while fully respecting its independence and sovereignty."[213]
  • President Emmanuel Macron congratulated Iraqi forces and tweeted on 9 July 2017: "Mosul liberated from Daesh. Homage from France to all those, with our troops, who contributed to this victory."[214]
  Lebanon
  • Lebanese Foreign Ministry on 10 July 2017 called for intensified regional efforts to contain the spread of terrorism "from one nest to another" and hailed the recapture of the city as a "great victory" for the Iraqi people.[215][216]
  Russia
  • President Vladimir Putin on 17 October said: "We hope that our American partners, and in this case our French partners as well, will act selectively and do everything to minimise — and even better, to rule out — civilian casualties."[217]
  Turkey
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan insisted unsuccessfully on a Turkish role in the Battle for Mosul (see Turkish involvement below).
  • On 26 October, Turkish FM Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said "Fighting ISIL is necessary, but the process after ISIL must be planned carefully."[218]
  • Exiled former Iraqi vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi condemned the cooperation between the United States and Iran during the course of the conflict, he also condemned the Shia dominated Popular Mobilization Force for taking part in the battle of Mosul and urged the international community to intervene to not allow them to take part in the operation.[219]
  United States
  • President Barack Obama said on 18 October, "Mosul will be a difficult fight and there will be advances and setbacks. I am confident, just as ISIL has been defeated in communities across Iraq, ISIL will be defeated in Mosul as well, and that will be another step toward their ultimate destruction."
  • Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said on 16 October, in a statement,[220] "This is a decisive moment in the campaign to deliver ISIL a lasting defeat."[221]
  • Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said on 29 March 2017, "Our enemy, ISIS, are evil and murderous butchers, engaged in purposeful and mass slaughter." "To put things in a little perspective for you, this is the most significant urban combat to take place since World War II; it is tough and brutal. House by house, block by block fights."[222]
  Iran
  • Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, condemned the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Mosul in March 2017 which killed more than 200 civilians and accused the United States of committing war crimes, saying: "This war crime is similar to the behavior of Daesh [Islamic State] and other Takfiri groups in targeting civilians and innocent people and should be urgently addressed in courts of justice."[223]

OtherEdit

  Iraqi Baath Party

  • Secretary General of the Iraqi Baath Party and former Vice-Chairman of the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and current leader of the Army of the Men of the Naqshbandi Order, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri released a statement in early 2018 commemorating the anniversary of the Baath Party's foundation, in the statement he condemned the Iraqi Government and the military action taken in Iraq against ISIL calling on "Baathist Youth" to continue to rebel against the Iraqi Government, he also referred to Iranian forces and allied paramilitary groups as Safavids. Douri also stated he had great hope in Saudi Arabia to help Iraq against Iran's influence, in the statement Douri said that Iraqi President Haidar al-Abadi personally destroyed Tikrit, Mosul, Fallujah and other Sunni majority cities in northern Iraq as part of their war against ISIL and that Badr Organization was directly under Iranian control. He also threatened to go to war with the Iraqi government and allied Shiite militias.[224][225]

Media coverage and social mediaEdit

Several media outlets including Al Jazeera and Channel 4 live streamed the first day's battle on Facebook, a first in war coverage.[226][227][228] Additional live video feeds were available on YouTube and the streaming app Periscope. Iraqi and Kurdish officials are also joining in on social media using the hashtag #FreeMosul.[229] Brendan Gauthier, assistant editor of Salon, noted that given ISIL's slick campaigns on social media, "It's only appropriate then that the Iraqi military's effort to reclaim Mosul from the PR machine turned extremist group be live-streamed."[230]

On 17 October, several Iraqi media outlets established the National Media Alliance to support journalists reporting on the battle. The groups include both government-run and private media, including Al Iraqiya and Al Sumaria. The alliance provides technical and journalistic services, including a joint operations newsroom. It was formed to counter ISIL propaganda and foster cooperation among the various media groups in order to reduce chaos and improve safety. Journalist Walid al-Tai told Al-Monitor, "One of the reasons behind the establishment of the alliance is to avoid any chaotic media coverage of the battle as every media and military institution is sending its correspondents to battlefronts. This leads to conflict in the coverage of the fighting and a greater number of casualties among journalists."[231]

Journalist Mustafa Habib reported that Iraqi citizens are coordinating efforts on Facebook and Twitter to counter ISIL propaganda, such as fake photos and videos, that may be used to intimidate locals in Mosul. A communications department of a Shia militia also announced it would be contributing to a social media campaign, and that 500 Iraqi journalists were embedded with the militias surrounding Mosul to report updates.[232]

On 27 October 2016, The New Yorker's Robin Wright interviewed the anonymous self-described historian Mosul Eye, a purported Mosuli who has blogged from the city about life in Mosul under ISIL despite death threats from the group. Responding to Wright's questions, Mosul Eye estimated the size and make-up of ISIL's force in Mosul, hopes for the future ("gain back power over the city" with help of "an international trusteeship to protect Mosul"), and the level of support for ISIL inside Mosul ("There is no support for ISIL in Mosul. They are left only with weapons that they will use to kill themselves once the liberating forces make the decision to raid the city.").[96]

Turkish involvementEdit

The involvement of Turkey in the operation has considerably strained its relations with Iraq.[5] Turkey has 1,500 to 2,000 soldiers in Iraq,[233] including 500 Turkish soldiers deployed to a base near Bashiqa, where they trained 1,500 Iraqi Sunni volunteers, mainly Turkmens, and Arabs to recapture Mosul from ISIL.[234][235] Turkey's participation is against the wishes of the Iraqi government, which has said the Turks are violating Iraq's sovereignty. Turkey has refused to withdraw its forces.[5] Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Turkish parliament on 1 October, "We will play a role in the Mosul liberation operation and no one can prevent us from participating,"[236] and said their presence was to ensure that Mosul did not fall to Kurdish or Shia control and become a threat to Turkey.[237][238] Turkey's presence was criticized by Kurds in northern Iraq,[239] and thousands of protestors demonstrated at the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad on 18 October, demanding Turkish forces withdraw from Iraq.[240] The United States has reportedly attempted to persuade Iraq to cooperate with Turkey on the Mosul offensive.[241] Al-Abadi declined the offer of Turkish assistance, saying, "I know that the Turks want to participate. We tell them thank you, this is something the Iraqis will handle and the Iraqis will liberate Mosul and the rest of the territories."[242] However, on 23 October, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım announced Turkish troops had fired on ISIL positions near Mosul after requests for assistance from the Peshmerga.[5]

The situation between Turkey and Iraq escalated on 1 November, the day Iraqi forces entered Mosul. Turkey announced it was sending tanks and artillery from Ankara to Silopi near the Iraqi border. Turkey's Minister of Defense Fikri Işık said the deployment was a move to "prepare for "important developments" in the region and be ready for any possible scenario" and stated that "further action can be taken if Turkey's red lines are crossed" warning Shi'ite militias and PKK not to "terrorize" and take hold of Iraqi Turkmen-majority regions in the area.[243][244][245] Prime Minister Al-Abadi warned Turkey not to "invade" Iraq, predicting war if they did. Al-Abadi, addressing journalists in Baghdad, said, "We warn Turkey if they want to enter Iraq, they will end up becoming fragmented... We do not want to fight Turkey. We do not want a confrontation with Turkey. God forbid, even if we engage in war with them, the Turks will pay a heavy price. They will be damaged. Yes, we too will be damaged, but whenever a country fights a neighboring country, there will be no winner, both will end up losing."[246]

On 7 November, Iraq rejected Turkey's proposal to continue running the Bashiqa military camp, no matter if it were formally transferred under the auspices of the coalition forces, and suggested that Turkey hand over control of the camp to Iraq's central government.[247]

Violation of the laws of warEdit

In February 2017, Human Rights Watch issued a report regarding the violation of the laws of war in Iraq. According to the report, Islamic State fighters occupied Al-Salam Hospital in Mosul in June 2014, and put the staff and the patients at risk of attacks. During the Battle of Mosul, seven Iraqi soldiers' corpses were dragged through the streets, and the bodies of three soldiers were hanged from a bridge in the city. As the report mentioned, ISIL fighters occupied a clinic in the town of Hammam al-Alil, which was then hit by an airstrike without warning on 18 October, killing at least eight civilians. Previously, they occupied other clinics in other towns controlled by the Islamic State fighters in Iraq, as well operating offices in all the medical facilities in the Republican, Ibn Sina, al-Salam, and Mosul General Hospitals.

Human Rights Watch has also accused the Iraqi Security Forces and Popular Mobilization Forces of dragging the bodies of alleged ISIL fighters in the town of Qayyarah and in the city of Fallujah, after Iraqi forces took eastern Mosul on 24 January 2017.[248] They warned that allowing Popular Mobilization Forces to conduct the screenings of men and boys fleeing Mosul for having fought for ISIL would have "dire human rights consequences."[249]

Human Rights Watch warned that Popular Mobilization Forces were poorly trained to conduct these screenings. They argued that the irregular nature of screening and detention practices and isolation of detainees in custody risk abuse of the detainees, including arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. Despite assurances from the Iraqi government that the PMF would not screen detainees in Mosul, an observer reported that three PMF groups were seen at a screening site on 11 March 2017: Hezbollah Brigades, al-Abbas Brigades, and Imam Ali Battalions.[249]

On 11 July 2017, a report was published by Amnesty International, accusing both sides of violating international laws in the battle, about a day after victory was declared by Iraqi forces. The report accused Iraqi forces and the US-led Coalition of carrying out a series of unlawful attacks in west Mosul, using heavily on Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions (IRAMs), explosive weapons and the failure of government to take necessary precautions to prevent the loss of civilian lives and in some cases including disproportionate attacks.[250]

According to a report published by UN Assistance Mission for Iraq and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in November 2017, at least 2,521 civilians were killed in the battle, mostly because of ISIL including executions of at least 741. It also recorded 461 civilian deaths in airstrikes during the most intensive phase from 19 February. It noted that ISIL had announced in November 2016 that civilians under government-held areas would be considered "legitimate targets" as they didn't fight the pro-government forces. It also called upon Iraqi authorities to investigate alleged violations and human rights abuses by Iraqi security forces during the battle.[251]

An Associated Press investigation that cross-referenced independent databases from non-governmental organizations, claimed that 9,000-11,000 residents of Mosul were killed in the battle. It blamed airstrikes and shellings by Iraqi forces and anti-ISIL coalition of being responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths. The coalition on the other hand has acknowledged responsibility for 326 deaths. ISIL was held responsible for killing one third of the civilians out of the death toll. AP also obtained a list of 9,606 people killed in the battle from Mosul's morgue while Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had claimed 1,260 deaths. 4,200 were confirmed to be civilians. Names of ISIL fighters and casualties from outside Mosul were discarded by the investigation. It stated however that some ISIL members might be among the remaining 6,000.[252]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit