Thursday, 13 July 2017

Mosul victory risks sectarian violence: Experts

MOSUL: The Iraqi government’s victory in Mosul may rekindle revenge attacks and fresh violence between Sunnis and Shiites, experts say.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi’s victory announcement signalled the biggest defeat for the Sunni terror group since its lightning sweep through northern Iraq three years ago. But pockets of Mosul remain insecure and the city has been heavily damaged by nearly nine months of gruelling urban combat.
About 900,000 people fled the fighting, with more than a third sheltered in camps outside Iraq’s second largest city and the rest living with family and friends in other neighborhoods.
Civilian activity has quickly returned to much of Mosul and work is underway to repair damaged homes and infrastructure, something the UN estimates will initially cost more than $1 billion.
Newly trained local police are deployed in Mosul alongside the military, but authorities have not prepared a post-battle plan for governance and security in the city, officials said.
On Wednesday, Iraqi forces clashed with Daesh militants holding out in Mosul’s Old City. Army helicopters strafed the Old City and columns of smoke rose into the air, though it was unclear if these came from controlled explosions or bombs set off by Daesh, the residents said by phone.
“We still live in an atmosphere of war despite the victory announcement two days ago,” said Fahd Ghanim, 45. Another resident said the blasts shook the ground around half a kilometer away. An Iraqi military official attributed the activity to “clearing operations.”
“Daesh is hiding in different places,” he said. “They disappear here and pop up there, then we target them.”
Media access to the area has been heavily restricted. Footage released by Daesh news agency Amaq entitled “Fighting till the last gasp” and allegedly filmed in Mosul’s Maydan district showed militants mixed in with civilians and unidentified corpses lying amid the rubble of an urban battlefield. Reuters could not authenticate the video.
Thousands of civilians have been killed during the Mosul offensive. Many were targeted by Daesh but rights groups have also accused Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition backing them of killings that violated international humanitarian law.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the US-led coalition said that an Amnesty International report accusing its forces of violating international law during the fight in the city is “irresponsible.”
Iraqi officials have declined to estimate the number of militants or civilians remaining in the Old City, but the top US general in Iraq said that as many as a couple of hundred insurgents could still be in Mosul.
“There are bypassed holdouts. We haven’t cleared every building in this city the size of Philadelphia. That’s going to have to be done, and there are also hidden IEDs (improvised explosive devices),” Lit. Gen. Stephen Townsend told reporters. “There are still going to be losses from the Iraqi security forces as they continue to secure Mosul.”
The coalition said it had conducted three airstrikes on Daesh in the Mosul area on Tuesday, targeting militants, machine-gun emplacements and rocket-propelled grenade systems.-arab news
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