Mosul fears return of Daesh nightmare

Iraqi security forces inspect the scene of a car bomb explosion near a restaurant in Mosul. (AFP)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Mosul fears return of Daesh nightmare

  • The Thursday blast hit Abu Layla restaurant in Mosul
  • Three people were killed and 12 wounded in the bombing

MOSUL: A deadly car bomb in Iraq’s Mosul, the first since the city was recaptured from terrorists, has left residents shaken and terrified that past nightmares are returning to haunt them.

The blast late on Thursday hit the popular Abu Layla restaurant in Mosul, the northern city that for three years served as Daesh’s Iraq headquarters.

When residents awoke to the scene of destruction on Friday morning, they feared their bloody past with Daesh was not yet behind them.

“We were liberated, so we thought that security was back,” said Mossab, a 25-year-old restaurant employee.

“But now it’s worse than ever.”

Three people were killed and 12 wounded in the bombing, medical and security sources said.

The restaurant suffered significant damage. One side, which sits on a road junction, seemed to have its windows blown out and the facade partly sheared off.

The cars in the street all had shattered or cracked windscreens and were covered in black ash and debris.

Mossab’s car, parked nearby, was one of them.

“I’ve been working for four years to save up to buy it, but it all went in the blink of an eye,” he said, devastated.

More violence

Iraqi security forces were deployed outside the restauarant on Friday, standing guard as cleaning crews worked to remove the debris. 

Residents nervously came to inspect the damage.

Khodor Ali, a 38-year-old who lives nearby, was worried there would be more violence.

“If the security situation stays like this, then our future is in the gutter,” he said.

Troops and paramilitaries recaptured Mosul in July last year, months before the government declared Daesh had finally been defeated in Iraq.

But the group still carries out bloody hit-and-run attacks, mostly in the rugged mountains of the north and in desert areas along the western border with Syria.

Security forces frequently arrest suspected terrorists or break up sleeper cells, and are still uncovering Daesh tunnels and hideouts in Mosul.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Thursday’s attack, but a statement by security forces blamed it on “terrorists.”

Ali said Iraqi officials were at least partly to blame for Thursday night’s attack.

“If they weren’t able to protect the city, they shouldn’t stay,” he said angrily.

“The only thing these officials want are senior posts. They told us, ‘IS (Daesh) is finished’ — but then there’s a car bomb that kills innocent people.”

Corruption

City officials have pointed the finger at the security forces deployed across Mosul.

“One of the main reasons we’re seeing a deterioration of the security situation is that there are too many decision-makers,” said member of parliament for Mosul, Ahmad Al-Jarba.

Between Iraq’s central military command and the Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, both of which are stationed in and around Mosul, there were mixed signals on security, Jarba said. He said endemic corruption had also played a role.

Iraq is the 12th most corrupt country in the world, according to monitoring group Transparency International.

Mosul’s residents have shouldered much of the rebuilding themselves, opening restaurants and shops along the Tigris river that divides the city.

But after Thursday’s blast, the spectre of IS seems closer than they had thought.


Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

Pro-government drive in an industrial district in the eastern outskirts of the port city Hodeidah. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Houthis mobilize to fight ahead of UN envoy’s visit

  • Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday
  • UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week

SANAA: Iran-backed Houthi militias have said they are ready to mobilize more fighters to the frontline despite a lull in battleground Hodeidah, as the UN envoy prepares to visit the country to boost peace efforts.

Dozens of Houthis put on a show of strength on the outskirts of Sanaa on Saturday, apparently getting ready to head toward Hodeidah, a Red Sea city home to a vital port.

Men, some of whom looked very young, were lining up with bandoliers around their shoulders and rifles in their hands, chanting Houthi slogans.

Residents said on Sunday that relative calm had held in Hodeidah city since pro-government forces announced a pause in their offensive last week amid international calls for a cease-fire and UN-led peace efforts.  They added, however, that they remain on edge.

Meanwhile, coalition fighter jets on Sunday carried out a series of strikes targeting Houthi positions west of Marib. The strikes, which were accompanied by shelling, came after the Iranian-supported militia launched ballistic missiles toward the city of Marib. Coalition forces successfully intercepted the missiles, Yemeni army media said.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday that he plans to travel to Sanaa in the coming week to finalize arrangements for peace talks to take place in Sweden soon.

Hameed Assem, a member of the militia delegation expected to take part in the negotiations, said that Houthis will continue to mobilize if UN efforts for peace fail to materialize.

Pro-government forces on Wednesday suspended their 12-day offensive in Hodeidah.

Griffiths said on Friday that both the government and the Houthis have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution and have given “firm assurances” that they will attend the talks. No date has yet been set.

(AFP)