The battle to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from the Islamic State (ISIS) is turning one month old this week, and while the Iraqi army has made significant inroads where the terrorist group previously ruled, civilians are growing concerned that their food supply is running short, while risk of disease grows as the corpses of ISIS jihadis rot in the streets.
The Kurdish outlet Rudaw has published a video taken by journalists embedded with the Iraqi military, exposing the situation in the eastern neighborhoods of the city. There, the civilians appear no longer afraid of the Islamic State, but are living off of Iraqi military food supplies. The animals are eating dead Islamic State jihadis; Rudaw’s camera caught a cat eating the chest of an Islamic State corpse.
The Islamic State’s presence is still very much felt in the “liberated” areas, as graffiti calling for the killing of “infidels” and corpses remain all too visible. As it has done in areas it has previously held – like Sinjar, Kobane, and Ramadi – ISIS has left a string of hidden land mines and booby traps in the streets and deep in civilian areas. As CNN notes, children’s toys are especially attractive to booby trap, as children are less likely to be careful touching their personal items when they return home. Iraqi teachers have begun to teach special classes to ensure children know what is a safe item to touch and what is not.
In addition to booby trap fears, the military has refused to advance deeper in the city because of fears that jihadis disguised as civilians remain in hiding in eastern Mosul, waiting for the army to feel secure enough to leave these areas before attacking. Those fears have triggered mass arrests, particularly of young Sunni males, who may be lurking among families. The families of those taken away now wander the streets, insisting to soldiers that their sons are not jihadis.
The chaos has grown, along with fears that the city’s food supply will run short as the military operation continues. Feeding the civilians, however, is leaving Iraqi soldiers hungry.
“This is a problem for us because the food we have is not enough for them and we’re waiting for more food to be sent from the government. Now the Iraqi soldier is giving his food to the civilians,” Iraqi Maj. Salam al-Obeidi told the Associated Press this week.
Meanwhile, in areas still controlled by the Islamic State, the jihadist group has begun a purge of those suspected to be collaborating with the Iraqi military or jihadis who have simply refused to fight. That purge is marked with the group’s signature gore: jihadis incinerated in burning oil fields, civilians executed publicly for possessing mobile phones, and children at the forefront of these gruesome murders. The group appears to be using the purge as training for their “Caliphate cubs.”
The coalition liberation Mosul, led by the Iraqi military, consists of Shiite militias, Kurdish Peshmerga troops, and U.S.-Western air support. Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, confirmed this week that the fight for Mosul will not be postponed, nor will American activity cease, until the Islamic State is soundly defeated: “We will continue to strike the enemy for as long as it takes for the Iraqi flag to be raised over Mosul and every other corner of this country.”