Iraq’s Mosul breathes easier after death of ‘butcher’ Al-Baghdadi

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A man walks near damaged al-Nouri mosque, where Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate back in 2014, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, October 27, 2019. (Reuters)
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People walk on the street, where Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his caliphate back in 2014, in the old city of Mosul, Iraq, October 27, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 27 October 2019

Iraq’s Mosul breathes easier after death of ‘butcher’ Al-Baghdadi

  • “The people of Mosul should have a huge party,” said one city resident
  • “I’ve had three strokes because of Daesh,” recalled another

MOSUL: Five years after he made their hometown infamous as the heart of his “caliphate,” residents of Iraq’s Mosul said Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s death should be marked only one way — with “a huge party.”
In June 2014, Al-Baghdadi climbed a set of stairs at the Al-Nuri Mosque in the northern Iraqi city and declared himself “caliph” over millions of people in Iraq and Syria.
The announcement unleashed a volley of violence that killed thousands, displaced millions and left cities across both countries in ruin — including Mosul.
On Sunday, US President Donald Trump announced Al-Baghdadi’s death in a US special operations raid some 700 kilometers (430 miles) away in rural northwestern Syria.
“The people of Mosul should have a huge party,” said 37-year-old city resident Khaled Waleed, wearing a baseball camp and white shirt.
“This criminal, this butcher Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, he killed and slaughtered everyone,” he said bitterly.
Born in Iraq’s western Samarra in 1971, Ibrahim Awad Al-Badri took up the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as he rose through the ranks to become Daesh’s feared chieftain.
His fighters burst into Mosul in the summer of 2014 and he made his first and only public appearance shortly afterwards to declare an Islamic “caliphate.”
Extremists imposed a strict interpretation of “sharia” there: music and smoking were banned, and any perceived violations were met with brutal punishments — including public beheadings.
“I’ve had three strokes because of Daesh,” recalled Hani Mahmoud, 54.
“My house burned down. My car was set on fire,” said the portly man with a closely-trimmed white beard.
Umm Alaa, an Iraqi woman dressed in a worn black robe, said Al-Baghdadi “made our lives hell.”
“There’s not a single house they didn’t attack, not a single house they didn’t oppress,” she said.
“This is a festival, a festival for all Iraqis because he destroyed us,” she added.
Daesh kept Mosul in its grip for three years, until a ferocious offensive by US-backed Iraqi troops ousted the extremists in 2017.
But the group left behind a horrifying legacy.
Many of Mosul’s neighborhoods, particularly the historic Old City which was the last area to be retaken, remain in ruins.
Slabs of concrete hang off destroyed and abandoned buildings like oversized hangnails.
The historic Al-Nuri Mosque stands gutted and covered in graffiti, while the adjacent ancient minaret — long the city’s symbol — was blown up in the violence.
Many residents have yet to return because their houses remain littered with unexploded ordnance or are damaged beyond habitation.
There are some 200 mass graves across the country where the remains of thousands of suspected Daesh victims have yet to be identified.
Several thousand people from the Yazidi minority are still missing, five years after Daesh ravaged their heartland near Mosul.
Bashar Hussam, 31, survived life under Daesh — unlike his father.
“My father had a blood clot and they didn’t let us leave until he died in front of my own eyes,” Hussam said.
While glad to see Baghdadi perish, he said it was not quite the happy ending he had hoped for.
“We want the other good news — that they rebuild our houses, that we go back to work and to our livelihoods.”


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 22 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”