Iraqi forces prepared to face desperate ISIL tactics in Mosul

By Khalid al-Taie

An Iraqi girl thanks the security forces for rescuing her family from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' south of Mosul. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

An Iraqi girl thanks the security forces for rescuing her family from the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' south of Mosul. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

Iraqi forces say they are prepared to face a number of desperate measures and diversionary tactics that the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) will employ as the offensive to liberate Mosul continues to build steam.

One of the tactics that ISIL is employing is civilians as human shields.

ISIL elements are afraid of confronting Iraqi soldiers in battle, said Salam Ali, a soldier of the army's 15th regiment, noting that they often hide among unarmed civilians.

"But we are prepared for them and will not let them hurt people," he told Diyaruna.

Risking fire from ISIL snipers, Iraqi soldiers stormed into the village of al-Salahiya during the military advance to rescue two women and five children who had been caught in the crossfire.

"The risk does not matter," he said. "What is important is that we managed to save innocent lives."

ISIL has engaged in other desperate measures to slow the advance of the Iraqi army towards Mosul, the group's main stronghold in Iraq.

Dozens of ISIL fighters and suicide bombers recently attacked Kirkuk and al-Rutba in an attempt to "distract the military and to ease the pressure on its fighters in Mosul", Joint Operations Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasul told Diyaruna.

"But these two attacks failed miserably due to the alertness and courage of the security forces," he said.

"When we planned for the battle for Mosul, we took into consideration that the ISIL thugs would resort to all means to protect themselves," he said.

ISIL elements tried to open new fronts in Kirkuk and al-Rutba in an attempt to score a media victory that would boost their morale, he added, but in the end, they lost and their efforts were in vain.

In Ramadi, Iraqi forces in co-operation with tribal mobilisation forces also thwarted an ISIL attack in mid October.

'Cowardly acts'

"Their modus operandi is to hide among and besiege locals in the battleground areas, but the bravery of our soldiers, who are highly trained street fighters, has spoiled their plans," Rasul said.

The group also has resorted to arson, Rasul said, noting the recent torching of al-Mishraq Sulphur Factory and before that the oil wells in al-Qayyara.

"In an exceptional effort, and with the help of the relevant authorities, our forces managed to control and extinguish the fires completely," he said.

"We are monitoring developments by the second," he added. "ISIL is losing control, and its members have been broken since the start of the battle. Now they are only planting roadside bombs and staging attacks here and there."

However, Rasul said, "we can expect anything from the enemy, and we are ready to deal with any war scenario".

The battle for Mosul is decisive and historic, Counter-Terrorism Service spokesman Sabah al-Numan told Diyaruna, noting that "our preparedness was commensurate with the challenges and difficulty that this war imposed".

"All the enemy’s attempts failed because we were well prepared to expect the unexpected," he said.

"We are winning the battle and everything is going according to plan. Our forces are manoeuvering and advancing towards their targets without giving the terrorists enough time to commit their cowardly acts," he said.

Drilling down on ISIL

Al-Numan said his forces have information about ISIL’s hideouts inside Mosul and know where its fighters are concentrated, their numbers and supplies.

"Our intelligence sources provided us with a full picture of the situation and the cards that ISIL holds six months ahead of the start of the battle," he said.

At this time, he added, the capabilities and morale of ISIL fighters are at an "all-time low and we are heading towards the endgame".

ISIL currently does not have enough force to control Mosul for long, terror group expert Hashim al-Hashimi told Diyaruna.

It is unlikely that the group will engage in a large-scale scorched earth policy in Mosul in response to its losses on the battlefield, he added.

"Maybe at the end of the battle, the group will only be able to carry out suicide attacks in an attempt to spoil the victory. This is what we have gotten used to," he said. "Suicide bombers are a dirty weapon and we have to be on full alert."

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