Iraqi media reported on Sunday the capture of a veteran Islamic State (ISIS) commander known as the “Prince of Battles” due to the many engagements he fought against Iraqi forces.
“The so-called Islamic State’s prince of battles was apprehended in Rabia district, west of Mosul, as he has just returned from Syria, where he escaped after the liberation of Iraqi territories from the terrorist group,” the Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate said on Sunday.
Mosul was the Islamic State’s stronghold in Iraq from 2014 through 2017, when it was recaptured. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his “caliphate” from Mosul.
Mosul is still recovering from its long domination by ISIS and the fierce battle waged to reclaim it. The smell of death literally lingered over the city for a year after its liberation due to a large number of corpses buried in the rubble.
ISIS has not been completely erased from Iraq, so the possibility that fugitive leaders could rally support from disgruntled Iraqis and reconstitute the terror group remains troubling. Mosul residents accuse the local government of incompetence or corruption because it fell behind on reconstruction projects. Reuters noted earlier in February that bank transfers to Mosul remain forbidden due to fears the money would be diverted to finance extremists.
“Residents worry that the longer it takes to fix Mosul, the easier it will be for groups such as ISIS to re-emerge and recruit,” Reuters reported. “Conditions that helped ISIS take over Mosul and other cities in 2014, including corruption and the neglect of Sunni Muslim communities by a Shiite-dominated government, remain.”
The Iraqi army conducted an operation two weeks ago that reportedly killed four ISIS militants armed with suicide belts who were hiding in tunnels near Mosul.