Exclusive: IS resistance 'weakening' as militants flee Mosul battle

Exclusive: IS resistance 'weakening' as militants flee Mosul battle
IS militants are fleeing the the front lines with Iraqi forces in west Mosul, a senior army commander told The New Arab on Friday.
2 min read
10 March, 2017

Mosul - IS retreating

Islamic State group militants in Mosul are beginning to flee the frontlines as repeated assaults by pro-Baghdad forces tests the grit of the militant group, an Iraqi army official told The New Arab.

Iraqi special forces continued their assault on IS positions in west Mosul, as militants began to desert the battlefield.

A senior military commander in the Iraqi army told The New Arab on Friday.

"Intelligence reports indicate the majority of IS militants remaining in west Mosul are non-Iraqis," noting that they were likely to be "suicide bombers".

The commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said most IS units were now fighting without guidance from leaders.

"The majority of armed militants and senior IS leaders have fled the battle scene, which indicates that the militant group knows it is losing the battle," the commander told The New Arab.

He said that the battle in Mosul is now being left to a core of hardline "foreign militants".

Early on Friday, Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service assaulted the al-Amil al-Oula neighbourhood of west Mosul, and were battling the militants inside it.

"The enemy fought fiercely in the first defensive line from al-Ghazlani base to Wadi Hajar and to al-Sumood neighbourhood," said Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi, from Iraq's Counter-Terrorism Service, referring to areas recaptured by Iraqi troops.

But "after these neighbourhoods - after we broke the defensive line - they lost many fighters", Saadi said.

"The enemy has begun to collapse. They have lost many of their combat capabilities. Today, the enemy sent (car bombs), but not in the numbers that they sent at the beginning of the battle."

But the battle for Mosul's Old City - which could see some of the toughest fighting of the operation - has not yet begun, nor has fighting inside the city of Raqqa, IS' main bastion in Syria.

In another sign that the militants are feeling the squeeze, their chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reported to have abandoned Mosul, leaving local commanders behind to oversee IS' defence of the city.

"He was in Mosul at some point before the offensive.... He left before we isolated Mosul and Tal Afar," a town to the west, a US defence official said.

"He probably gave broad strategic guidance and has left it to battlefield commanders."

Baghdadi, who declared IS' cross-border "caliphate" at a Mosul mosque in 2014, urged supporters in an audio message in November to make a stand in the city rather than "retreating in shame".

Iraqi forces launched their operation to retake Mosul in October, and recaptured the whole east bank of the Tigris River that runs through it in January.

Agencies contributed to this report.