Unmasked: Mosul Eye is anonymous historian who leaked Daesh secrets

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

Unmasked: Mosul Eye is anonymous historian who leaked Daesh secrets

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.”


UK’s new aircraft carrier launches first strikes against Daesh

UK’s new aircraft carrier launches first strikes against Daesh
Updated 25 min 54 sec ago

UK’s new aircraft carrier launches first strikes against Daesh

UK’s new aircraft carrier launches first strikes against Daesh
  • Latest attacks come amid warnings of terror group’s resurgence in Syria, Iraq

LONDON: The British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has launched its first direct military operation against Daesh.
British and American F-35B Stealth jets took off from the decks of the new carrier to strike the terror group’s positions in Syria and Iraq. Defense officials said several Daesh positions were destroyed.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace described the role of the £3.5 billion ($4.8 billion) HMS Queen Elizabeth in the operation as “a physical embodiment of global Britain.”
Kurdish groups have warned that the number of Daesh attacks is rising. More than 20 Iraqi and Kurdish security force members have been killed by the group in the last few months.
On Jan. 21, Baghdad suffered its deadliest suicide bombing in three years, with 32 people killed and over 100 injured after an explosion ripped through a market.
Warnings have also come from European allies, with French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly recently saying his country “considers Daesh is still present, we could even say that there is a resurgence of Daesh in Syria and Iraq.”
Wallace said: “The ability to operate from the sea with the most advanced fighter jets ever created is a significant moment in our history, offering reassurance to our allies and demonstrating the UK’s formidable air power to our adversaries.”
Commander of the UK Carrier Strike Group Cdre Steve Moorhouse said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first missions against Daesh will be remembered as a significant moment in the 50-year lifespan of this ship. It also marks a new phase of our current deployment ... Now we are ready to deliver the hard punch of maritime-based air power against a shared enemy.”


How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis

 How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis
Updated 22 June 2021

How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis

 How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis
  • The hunt for metal is taking place amid soaring unemployment and a dollar shortage in the small Mediterranean country

Lebanon’s waste management system is the newest target in a trend of metal thefts that officials believe are being carried out by residents rendered desperate by the country’s unprecedented economic collapse.

The latest casualty? One of two landfills servicing the greater Beirut area was forced to shut down over the past week because of rogue scavengers.

The landfill, located in Jdeideh, on the outskirts of the capital, had become a hunting ground for residents scouring for metal and other valuables that can fetch a hefty price on the market.

For decades, Lebanon has been producing more waste than it could manage, culminating in mountains of trash filling streets in 2015 as mass protests erupted condemning the government’s failure to come up with an effective waste management strategy.

Built in 2018 for what was supposed to be a temporary fix to the region’s endemic garbage problem, the landfill has undergone numerous expansions as authorities failed to conjure up a sustainable solid waste management plan.

Instead, successive governments have elected to keep piling trash higher, reaching a height of some 20 meters.

Toufic Kazmouz, the project manager at a local contracting company managing the landfill, told Arab News that the landfill was being expanded while still receiving 1,200 tons of garbage per day before being forced to shut down.

“This is definitely not a sustainable solution to the garbage problem, but the scavengers have made it even worse and have forced us to close shop,” Kazmouz said.

Hundreds of people were trespassing into the landfill daily, he said, forcing the company to halt both construction and operations last week.

According to Kazmouz, scavengers would wait patiently for a dump truck to empty its load before entering the site, armed with plastic bags.

Several scuffles had erupted between scavengers and workers in an environment filled with heavy machinery and equipment.

“It’s simply become an unsafe work environment for everyone involved,” Kazmouz said.

With the landfill shut down, piles of garbage have lined the streets of the Metn and Kesourwan districts after the waste management company Ramco stopped collecting trash.

“We stopped collecting trash because we had nowhere to dispose of it,” Walid Bou Saad, director of Ramco, told Arab News.

Scavengers have forced Kazmouz to shut down the landfill twice since April, despite both the “Internal Security Forces and Lebanese intelligence sending patrols to cordon off the area.”

Discussions are currently ongoing with the Interior Ministry to increase security, he said.

“Municipality workers are expected to be stationed at the site starting today, but we’ll face the same problem again later,” Kazmouz noted.

The hunt for metal is taking place amid soaring unemployment and a dollar shortage in the small Mediterranean country that has caused the local currency to lose some 90 percent of its value while the prices of basic goods and commodities skyrocket.

“It’s metal,” Kazmouz pointed out. “People are really suffering and looking for any means to make some money.” 

Metal has become an increasingly valuable commodity in Lebanon, with desperate residents even stealing manhole covers and metal supports from electricity pylons.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told AFP in February that he attributed the theft of manhole covers to the fact that they “are made out of cast iron, which has become much more expensive.”

The covers, weighing up to 60 kg, can fetch up to $100 when sold for scrap. At the current black-market rate, this is equivalent to some LL1.5 million, or more than double the current monthly minimum wage.

The dire situation has also pushed thieves to target Lebanon’s already deficient electricity grid, causing the collapse of a 55-meter pylon connecting one of the country’s four power plants to the region of the Bekaa.

After its metal supports had been stolen, the pylon was no match for the high winds that blew across Lebanon in the winter season.


Train collision in Alexandria leaves several injured, local reports say

Train collision in Alexandria leaves several injured, local reports say
Updated 21 min 16 sec ago

Train collision in Alexandria leaves several injured, local reports say

Train collision in Alexandria leaves several injured, local reports say

CAIRO: Eight people were injured in a collision between two carriages on Alexandria/Cairo train at the Alexandria Station on Tuesday, Egyptian media reports say.

The Egyptian Railways Authority said in a statement that the accident left several people injuried, and they were transferred to hospitals in the city.  

It also said those responsible for the accident were arrested and transferred to the Public Prosecution.


Palestinians, Jewish settlers clash in tense Jerusalem neighborhood

Palestinians, Jewish settlers clash in tense Jerusalem neighborhood
Updated 22 June 2021

Palestinians, Jewish settlers clash in tense Jerusalem neighborhood

Palestinians, Jewish settlers clash in tense Jerusalem neighborhood
  • Settler groups are trying to evict several Palestinian families
  • Threatened evictions fueled protests and clashes in the runup to last month’s 11-day Gaza war

JERUSALEM: Palestinians and Jewish settlers hurled stones, chairs and fireworks at each other overnight in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood where settler groups are trying to evict several Palestinian families, officials said Tuesday.
The threatened evictions fueled protests and clashes in the runup to last month’s 11-day Gaza war and pose a test for Israel’s new governing coalition, which includes three pro-settler parties but is hoping to sideline the Palestinian issue to avoid internal divisions.
Israeli police and border officials said they arrested four suspects in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. It was unclear who started the brawl. One woman was reportedly injured when she was hit in the back by a stone, police said.
The Red Crescent emergency service said its crews treated 20 Palestinians, including 16 suffering from pepper spray and tear gas and others wounded by rubber-coated bullets. Two other people were wounded, including an elderly man who was hit in the head, it said.
The Red Crescent said settlers threw stones at one of its ambulances and Israeli forces sprayed skunk water on a second ambulance belonging to the service.
The eruption of violence is the latest friction in Sheikh Jarrah, where weeks of unrest captured international attention ahead of the 11-day Israel-Hamas war last month. The cease-fire took effect on May 21, but the long-running campaign by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families continues.
And so the cycle of tension endures, in a stark early test for Israel’s new coalition government, which is just over a week old.
At the helm under a rotation agreement is Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Yamina party. In two years, he’ll be replaced by Yair Lapid, leader of centrist Yesh Atid. And leading the opposition is Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, ousted from the premiership after holding the post for 12 years.
An intervention by Israel’s attorney general at the height of the unrest has put the most imminent evictions on hold. But rights groups say evictions could still proceed in the coming months as international attention wanes, potentially igniting another round of bloodshed.
The settlers have been waging a decades-long campaign to evict the families from densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods in the so-called Holy Basin just outside the walls of the Old City, in one of the most sensitive parts of east Jerusalem.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. Israel views the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The settlers say the homes are built on land that was owned by Jews prior to the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim such property, a right denied to Palestinians who lost lands and homes in the same conflict.


Houthi’s escalation of violence, rejection of peace, will not go unpunished: Yemen leaders

Houthi’s escalation of violence, rejection of peace, will not go unpunished: Yemen leaders
Updated 22 June 2021

Houthi’s escalation of violence, rejection of peace, will not go unpunished: Yemen leaders

Houthi’s escalation of violence, rejection of peace, will not go unpunished: Yemen leaders
  • Group’s military escalation in Yemen as well as attacks against Saudi Arabia undermine peace efforts

DUBAI: The Houthi escalation in attacks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia will not go unpunished and government forces are ready to thwart the Iran-backed group’s violence after its rejection of peace efforts, senior Yemeni officials said.

The government and the Yemeni people stand with all their capabilities behind the national army, the popular resistance and the tribesmen until the restoration of the state and ending the Houthi group and its racist project supported by Iran, Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik said, state news agency Saba reported.

The escalation in the attacks carried out by the Houthi militia and its repeated targeting of those displaced and the civilians in Marib, Hodeidah and elsewhere, as well as against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, will not go unpunished, Abdulmalik added.

Muamar Al-Eryani, the minister of information, culture and tourism, stressed that the group’s military escalation in Yemen as well as attacks against Saudi Arabia have undermined peace efforts or worse, a rejection of peaceful solutions.

“This hysteric and dangerous escalation confirms Houthi militia’s continuation of its coup and loyalty to Iranian agenda and destructive policies aiming at spreading chaos and terrorism in the region,” Al-Eryani said in a statement.

Al-Eryani added that the military escalation coincided with the recruitment of child soldiers and brainwashing them in summer camps, and again called on the international community to denounce the violence and pressure the militia to respond to peace efforts.