Iraqi forces wage psychological war with Daesh terrorists’ corpses

Children wait on the back of a pick up truck outside the Khazer checkpoint on the road to Mosul, on Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 08 February 2017
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Iraqi forces wage psychological war with Daesh terrorists’ corpses

MOSUL: The flyblown corpses of Daesh militants have been rotting along a main street in north Mosul for two weeks, a health risk for passersby. Suicide bombers’ belts beside the fighters can still explode, killing anyone nearby.
But the Iraqi Army has no intention of burying the militants and hopes as many people as possible will get a good look at their blackened bodies, torn apart by bombs and bullets.
As Iraqi forces prepare to expand their offensive against Daesh from east to west Mosul, they want to stamp out any sympathy that residents may have for the group, which won instant support when it seized the vast city in 2014.
“We will leave the terrorists there,” said Ibrahim Mohamed, a soldier who was standing near three dead radicals, ignoring the stench.
His cousin suffered death by electrocution at the hands of radicals during Daesh’s harsh rule of Mosul because he was a policeman.
“The message is clear to Iraqis, to keep them from joining or supporting Daesh. This will be your fate. The Iraqi Army will finish you off,” he said.
A suicide bomber’s belt, with its detonation pin still in place, lay in the street a few feet away, near some clothing once worn by a militant.
The Iraqi Army has come a long way since it collapsed in the face of Daesh’s lightning advance into northern Iraq. After retaking half of Mosul in three months of fighting, Iraqi forces are poised to enter the western side of the city.
Victory there would mean the end of Daesh’s self-proclaimed caliphate, though Iraqi officials expect the group to fight on as insurgents in Iraq and inspire attacks in the West.
The corpses are left on view as a psychological weapon to deter Daesh sleeper cells, which Iraqi officials say are highly effective and distributed across the country.
Daesh has executed thousands of Iraqi soldiers and policemen, and their comrades are eager for revenge.
“We leave them in the street like that so the dogs eat them,” said soldier Asaad Hussein. “We also want the citizens to know there is a price for supporting terrorists.”
Iraqi citizens do not seem to mind the gory sight of the bodies, with people walking past them every day as Mosul begins the work of rebuilding entire neighborhoods pulverized by Daesh car bombs and US-led airstrikes.
Laborer Youssef Salim observed the corpses, still with army boots on their feet, and paused to reflect on life under Daesh, which has lost ground in Iraq and other Arab countries. He said the bodies should not be moved.
“Do you know what smoking one, just one cigarette meant?” he asked. “Twenty-five lashes in a public square where people were forced to watch you suffer. If your beard length did not meet their requirements, that was a month in jail and 100 lashes in public.”
A few streets away, a group of young boys walked toward three more Daesh corpses. “The bodies should stay. Daesh killed lots of people so why should they be buried,” said Salem Jamil, 13.
But a man who approached said the bodies should be buried because that is everyone’s right.
The three militants were shot when they tried to sneak through some trees to kill soldiers. One of the soldiers stood over the dead men, including one still wearing a suicide belt. He smiled and pointed to a cigarette stuffed in one of the terrorist’s nostrils.
“We put it there because of the terrible things they did to Iraqis,” said the soldier, Asaad Najif. “The fate of any terrorist is clear. We will find you and kill you.”


Syria rebels dig in for Daraa fight

Updated 25 April 2018
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Syria rebels dig in for Daraa fight

  • The city is split between rebels, who hold the southern Old City, and regime forces who control the modern districts and government posts to the north
  • Far away from geopolitical interests, civilians are worried about what the escalation could bring

DARAA: On a tense urban frontline in Syria’s Daraa, rebel Atallah Qutayfan has been steadily reinforcing his defensive post for weeks in anticipation of a looming assault by government troops.
The 25-year-old spends his days stacking sandbags to shore up his post overlooking a market in the southern city, and monitoring the amassing regime forces nearby.
“Their reconnaissance planes are constantly above the city. There are daily clashes and they try to infiltrate our positions, but we’ve stopped them,” says Qutayfan.
“Our commanders told us to be ready for an attack by regime forces — and we’re on high alert.”
As loyalist forces mop up the last pockets of resistance around the capital, President Bashar Assad appears to already have set his sights on his next target: Daraa.
The city is split between rebels, who hold the southern Old City, and regime forces who control the modern districts and government posts to the north.
Opposition forces still hold more than two-thirds of the surrounding 3,730-square-kilometer province which borders Jordan.
Seizing the border area could bring the regime both military and economic security, analysts have said.
And a victory in Daraa city would carry symbolic weight — it was the cradle of Syria’s seven-year uprising against Assad’s rule.
The resurgent regime just this month dealt rebels their biggest blow yet by recapturing Eastern Ghouta, the former opposition stronghold outside Damascus.
That freed up troops who had spent years bombing the Ghouta front.
“After Ghouta, the regime escalated its bombing against us with surface-to-surface missiles, machine-gun fire, mortars, tanks, and heavy artillery,” says rebel fighter Fahed Abu Hatem.
In response, Abu Hatem says, his forces reinforced their positions, dug trenches and erected fresh barricades.
Gritting his teeth, rebel field commander Ibrahim Musalima, 27, insists the extra measures are necessary.
“It’s not fear, it’s readiness,” says Musalima.
“We’re setting up lines of defense and attack, and upping our coordination with the Quneitra rebels to the west, all the way to the border with Suweida to the east.”
Quneitra is the province directly to Daraa’s west, and Suweida neighbors it to the east.
Sections of the three provinces make up a “de-escalation zone” agreed in May 2017 by rebel backer Turkey and regime allies Russia and Iran.
The US and Jordan have also backed the zone, announcing alongside Russia in July that a cessation of hostilities would begin in the southern sliver.
Despite the steadily increasing violence, Musalima says the south’s rebel factions had been “advised” by their foreign backers not to provoke the regime or its loyalist militias, and to preserve the de-escalation zone.
The subtle warning belies the region’s importance to rival actors in Syria’s complex war.
Assad is keen to recapture the strategic Nasib crossing with Jordan, which the regime lost to rebels in 2015 but whose recapture could generate desperately needed income from cross-border trade.
Meanwhile, the presence of Iran-backed militias in southern Syria, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, has irked neighboring Israel.
Far away from these geopolitical interests, civilians are worried about what the escalation could bring.
Umm Mohammad Al-Baghdadi, a 45-year-old nurse in a field clinic in Daraa, describes a constant stream of wounded from shelling and bombing.
“We can’t say we’re not scared of more escalation. After the end of Ghouta, of course the regime is going to go for any area that opposes it,” she says.
“It wants to snuff out the uprising generally, and in Daraa especially.”
Around 30,000 people live in rebel-held parts of Daraa city, according to the local opposition-run council.
Its head Mohammad Abdulmajid Al-Musalima, 38, says residents struggle to cope with severe shortages of water and electricity, and widespread destruction.
“Women and children will bear the brunt of any military escalation, because they’re the main pressure point used by the regime against opposition groups,” says Musalima.
Rebels and local opposition officials alike insist Daraa’s fate will not resemble Ghouta’s, where a five-year siege had worn down rival rebel groups.
“We’re saying to the regime: Daraa is not Ghouta. The armed opposition here is holding it together,” says Mohammad Al-Masri, 60, a member of the local council.
“Here, the front lines are holding on. Our popular base and the rebels are in agreement: Daraa is our city, and we will stand firm in it,” says Masri.