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.”


Egypt pursues criminal investigation into Egyptian academic studying in Italy

Updated 25 min 20 sec ago

Egypt pursues criminal investigation into Egyptian academic studying in Italy

  • Patrick Zaki was arrested on Feb. 7 when he arrived at Cairo airport on a visit to see his family
  • Zaki is being investigated over charges of “broadcasting false news aimed at disrupting security and social peace"

CAIRO: The Egyptian public prosecutor’s office is pursuing a criminal investigation into an Egyptian researcher studying in Italy on charges of spreading fake news that posed a threat to security and social stability, it said on Sunday.
Patrick Zaki, a graduate student at the University of Bologna, was arrested on Feb. 7 when he arrived at Cairo airport on a visit to see his family, according a statement the following day from the Cairo-based Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) where he is also a researcher.
Zaki is being investigated over charges of “broadcasting false news aimed at disrupting security and social peace and for using the Internet to disrupt public order and endanger society,” the prosecutor’s statement said.
An EIPR lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Zaki denied all charges and that his client had mostly been questioned about his human rights work when he was living in Egypt.
The lawyer, who said he spoke to Zaki after his arrest, said the postgraduate student told him he had been interrogated while blindfolded and had been beaten and subjected to electric shocks.
The prosecutor’s statement said there “were no visible signs of injuries” on Zaki while he was being questioned, and that Zaki himself denied the existence of any injuries.
An interior ministry official said allegations of torture were unfounded.
Authorities say curbing fictitious news is necessary for national security. They regularly accuse researchers and news outlets of a lack of professionalism in covering Egypt and urge reporters to use only official outlets as sources.
Local and international human rights groups and the European Parliament have condemned Zaki’s arrest and called for his immediate release.
“I want to remind the Egyptian authorities that EU relations with third countries rely on respect for human rights and civil rights as confirmed by many resolutions approved by the European Parliament,” the president of European Parliament, David Sassoli, told a news conference on Wednesday.