Daesh remnants wage hidden war of raids, killings

In this April 14, 2019 photo, Khadija Abd poses for a portrait in her family's house in Mosul, Iraq. On a chilly January evening, the Abd family had just finished supper at their farm when the two men with guns burst into the room. They said they were from the Iraqi army. In fact, they were Daesh militants who had come down from the surrounding mountains into Badoush with one thing on their mind: Revenge. (AP)
Updated 13 May 2019

Daesh remnants wage hidden war of raids, killings

  • The terrorists pulled Khadija’s husband and his two brothers into the yard and shot them dead
  • Badoush, on the Tigris River just outside the city of Mosul, is a key battleground

BADOUSH, IRAQ: It was a chilly January evening, and Khadija Abd and her family had just finished supper at their farm when the two men with guns burst into the room.

One wore civilian clothes, the other an army uniform. They said they were from the Iraqi army’s 20th Division, which controls the northern Iraqi town of Badoush. In fact, they were Daesh group militants who had come down from the surrounding mountains into Badoush with one thing on their mind: Revenge.

Around 13 more gunmen were waiting outside. The terrorists pulled Khadija’s husband and his two brothers into the yard and shot them dead, leaving them in a pool of blood — punishment for providing information to the Iraqi military.

“How can we live after this?” Khadija said. The three brothers were the providers for the entire family. “They left their children, their livestock, their wives, and their elderly father who doesn’t know what to do now.”

A year and a half after Daesh was declared defeated in Iraq, the militants still evoke fear in the lands of their former so-called caliphate across northern Iraq.

The terrorists, hiding in caves and mountains, emerge at night to carry out kidnappings, killings and roadside ambushes, aimed at intimidating locals, silencing informants and restoring the extortion rackets that financed Daesh’s rise to power six years ago.

It is part of a hidden but relentless fight between the group’s remnants waging an insurgency and security forces trying to stamp them out, relying on intelligence operations, raids and searches for sleeper cells among the population.

The militants’ ranks number between 5,000 and 7,000 around Iraq, according to an Iraqi intelligence official.

“Although the territory once held by the so-called caliphate is fully liberated, Daesh fighters still exhibit their intention to exert influence and stage a comeback,” said Maj. Gen. Chad Franks, deputy commander-operations and intelligence for the US-led coalition.

In towns around the north, Iraqi soldiers knock on doors in the middle of the night, looking for suspects, based on intelligence tips or suspicious movements. They search houses and pull people away for questioning.

In February, Human Rights Watch accused authorities of torturing suspects to extract confessions of belonging to Daesh, an accusation the Interior Ministry has denied. Detainees are pushed by the thousands into what critics call sham trials, with swift verdicts — almost always guilty — based on almost no evidence beyond confessions or unaccountable informants’ testimony. The legacy of guilt weighs heavily especially on women and children, who face crushing discrimination because of male relatives seen as supporting Daesh.

AP journalists embedded with a battalion of the 20th Division last month and witnessed several of its raids at Badoush.

Badoush, on the Tigris River just outside the city of Mosul, is a key battleground because it was once one of the most diehard Daesh strongholds.

In the summer of 2014, it was a launching pad for the militants’ blitz that overran Mosul and much of northern Iraq. Daesh built a strong financial base by extorting money from the owners of Badoush’s many industrial facilities. Security officials estimate two-thirds of its population — which numbered around 25,000 before the war — were at one point members or supporters of the group.

Now the population is divided. Residents who suffered at the hands of Daesh or lost loved ones to the group are suspicious of neighbors they believe still support the militants. Within families, some members belonged to the group and others opposed it.

The Badoush area alone has seen 20 terror attacks, from bombings to targeted killings, since it was retaken from the militants in March 2017, according to the Kurdish Security Council. The militants brag about the attacks in videos that show fighters storming houses and killing purported “apostates” and spies.


Algeria kicks off presidential campaign, 5 candidates to run

Updated 18 min 58 sec ago

Algeria kicks off presidential campaign, 5 candidates to run

  • In some neighborhoods of Algiers, protesters have hung black trash bags on billboards featuring the candidates’ portraits

ALGIERS: Algeria’s presidential campaign officially kicked off Sunday with five candidates vying to replace the country’s longtime leader, who was pushed out in April amid sustained protests.
Two former prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune, are among those running in the Dec. 12 election to succeed former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
Big crowds took to the streets Friday for a 39th consecutive week to demand an end to Algeria’s post-colonial political system. Protesters say they don’t trust those currently in power to ensure democratic elections, citing their past links to Bouteflika.
Benflis and Tebboune are considered the favorites of the vote.
The other candidates are: former tourism minister and moderate Islamist Abdelkader Bengrina; former culture minister and current interim secretary of the RND party that was in the governing coalition, Azzedine Mihoubi; and Belaid Abdelaziz, who heads the small El Moustakbel (Future) party that’s close to the FLN, both of which remain part of the ruling coalition.
In some neighborhoods of Algiers, protesters have hung black trash bags on billboards featuring the candidates’ portraits, often sprayed with the words “election of shame” and “traitors.”
Benflis said this week that “this election is not held in ideal conditions, I know that, but I consider it is the shorter and less risky path to get Algeria out of the political impasse caused by the former regime.”
Tebboune acknowledged the “special climate” of the electoral process. Speaking on television earlier this month, he justified his candidacy by saying he wanted to “put Algeria back on good tracks.”
“Some Algerians are against the election, but I know a majority are for it,” he said.
Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who has emerged as the country’s authority figure, repeatedly vowed that “all security conditions will be met so that Algerians can fulfill their electoral duty in full serenity.”