Unmasked: Mosul Eye is anonymous historian who leaked Daesh secrets

Mosul Eye has revealed himself as 31-year old Omar Mohammed: a historian, scholar and blogger. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Unmasked: Mosul Eye is anonymous historian who leaked Daesh secrets

MOSUL, Iraq: He would wander the streets of occupied Mosul by day, chatting with shopkeepers and Daesh fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information. He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by the extremists. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and stonings, so he could hear executioners call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes.
By night, anonymously from his darkened room, Mosul Eye told the world what was happening. If caught, he too would be executed.
But after more than three years, his double life has grown too heavy to bear. He misses his name.
His secrets consume him, sap energy he’d rather use for his doctoral dissertation and for helping Mosul rebuild. In conversations with The Associated Press, he agonized over how to end the anonymity that plagues him. He made his decision.
Mosul Eye is Omar Mohammed, historian, scholar, blogger. He is 31.
The revelation of his identity is for his thousands of readers and followers, for all his volunteers in Mosul who have been inspired by a man they have never seen. But above all, it is for the brother who died in the final battle and for his grieving mother.
“I can’t be anonymous anymore. This is to say that I defeated ISIS. You can see me now, and you can know me now,” he told The Associated Press.
Mohammed first posted about the Daesh group under his own Facebook account, in the first few days after its fighters swept into Mosul, but a friend told him he risked being killed. So in those first days he made himself a promise: trust no one, document everything.
A newly minted teacher with a reputation for secular ideas, he had lost his university job.
He found another calling.
“My job as a historian requires an unbiased approach which I am going to adhere to and keep my personal opinion to myself,” he wrote on that first day, June 18, 2014.
Mosul Eye became one of the outside world’s main sources of news about the Daesh fighters, their atrocities and their transformation of the city into a grotesque shadow of itself.
During Friday sermons, Mohammed feigned enthusiasm. He collected propaganda to post online later. He drank tea at the hospital, fishing for information.
Much of what he collected went on the blog. Other details he kept in his computer, for fear of giving away his identity. Someday, he promised, he would write history with them.
The most sensitive details initially came from two old friends: a doctor and a high school dropout who had joined a Daesh intelligence unit.
Mohammed’s information sometimes included photos of the fighters and commanders, complete with biographies surreptitiously pieced together during the course of his normal life — that of an out-of-work scholar living at home.
“I used the two characters, the two personalities to serve each other,” he said. He expanded into a Facebook page and a Twitter feed to parcel out information at a time when little news was escaping.
Intelligence agencies made contact as well and he rebuffed them.
“I am not a spy or a journalist,” he would say. “I tell them this: If you want the information, it’s published and it’s public for free. Take it.”
In March 2015, his catalog of horrors got to him.
“I was super ready to die,” Mohammed said. “I was so tired of worrying about myself, my family, my brothers. I am not alive to worry, but I am alive to live this life. I thought: I am done.”
He cut his hair short, shaved his beard and pulled on a bright red sweater. His closest friend joined him.
They drove to the banks of the Tigris blasting forbidden music. They shared a carafe of tea. Heedless of people picnicking nearby, Mohammed lit a cigarette— banned by Daesh. Somehow, incredibly, he wasn’t caught.
“At that moment I felt like I was given a new life.”
He resumed what he had taken to calling his duty. He grew out his hair and beard, put the shortened trousers back on.
He tested out different voices, Christian, Muslim. Sometimes he indicated he was gone, other times that he was still in the city.
Finally, after leaving Mosul a thousand times in his mind, he decided it was time to get out.
“I think I deserve life, deserve to be alive.”
A smuggler agreed to sneak him out for $1,000. Mohammed left the next day, the contents of his computer transferred overnight to a hard-drive that he packed with him.
No one gave him a second look during the two days and some 500 kilometers it took to reach Turkey.
Once there, Mosul Eye kept at it: via WhatsApp and Viber, from Facebook messages and long conversations with friends and relatives who had contacts within Daesh. From hundreds of kilometers away, his life remained consumed by events back home .
By mid-2016, deaths were piling up faster than he could record. The Daesh group was on a hunt for traitors and the airstrikes were taking an increasing toll on everyone. His records grew haphazard, and he turned to Twitter to document the atrocities. In February 2017, he received asylum in Europe.
Only after his elder brother Ahmed was killed in a mortar strike and Daesh was gone from the city did Mohammed reveal his secret to a younger brother — who greeted the news with a shock of pride and happiness. His sibling spoke on condition of anonymity from his refuge in Iraq because he was fearful for his life.
“People in Mosul had lost hope and confidence in politicians, in everything,” his brother said. Mosul Eye “managed to show that it’s possible to change the situation in the city and bring it back to life.”


Israel says Hezbollah set up Lebanon post under NGO guise

Updated 22 October 2018
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Israel says Hezbollah set up Lebanon post under NGO guise

  • Israel has relayed its concerns to the UN peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, and asked them to visit the positions

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military on Monday said it uncovered a militant outpost on the Lebanese border that Hezbollah guerrillas have set up under the guise of an environmental advocacy group.
A senior officer from the military’s Northern Command told reporters that the new observation post in the village of Al-Adisa violates the United Nations resolution that ended the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war and bars militant activity in southern Lebanon. He said Hezbollah is using a tree-planting campaign by the “Green Without Borders” association as a cover for its activity along the border to gather intelligence on Israeli troops.
The Lebanese non-governmental organization has acknowledged its affiliation with the militant group but claims its purpose on the border is purely environmental.
The Israeli officer, speaking on condition of anonymity under military guidelines, said the army discovered five other Hezbollah posts in 2017, in breach of the UN agreement.
“We haven’t seen any Hezbollah arms yet, but we can see military infrastructure and it’s clear this is part of extensive activity in south Lebanon and in Lebanon in general that is a threat to the IDF and to Israel,” the officer said, referring to the Israeli Defense Forces. “This is of course a buildup that we cannot tolerate.”
The Israeli military on Monday released photos of what it said were the Hezbollah observation posts. One photo showed a uniformed man peering through a window with high-tech binoculars.
Andrea Tenenti, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, said UNIFIL has “not observed any unauthorized armed persons” at the position and “continues to monitor activities closely,” including those of the environmental group.
The Israeli-Lebanon border, though tense, has been mostly quiet in recent years under UN supervision.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a devastating monthlong war in 2006, which ended in a stalemate.
Since then, Hezbollah has amassed an arsenal that is believed to include well over 100,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israel.