Wednesday 13 December 2017

Foreign Isil fighters behind atrocities in Mosul

A member of the Iraqi Federal Police poses as Iraqi forces clash with the Islamic State fighters in western Mosul. Photo: Reuters
A member of the Iraqi Federal Police poses as Iraqi forces clash with the Islamic State fighters in western Mosul. Photo: Reuters

Ben Farmer

Foreign fighters are being used by retreating Isil group commanders to commit atrocities during desperate fighting for Mosul, the international military coalition battling the terror group has said.

Jihadists who have travelled from abroad to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), believed to include British fighters, are being used as a final line of defence because of their brutality towards local residents.

Col John Dorrian, spokesman for the international military coalition fighting Isil, said yesterday up to 1,000 Isil fighters remain in Mosul, including a "significant group" of foreign jihadists. He said the foreign fighters were often committed to fighting to the death and felt little solidarity with the residents of the Iraqi city.

He said: "One of the things we have seen repeated throughout the campaign is that as Isil leaders begin to leave areas that they expect to lose, what they like to do is to leave foreign fighters behind, because foreign fighters have no reluctance whatsoever to treat civilians that are in the area very, very poorly and to use the scorched earth tactics that we have seen before.

"What we are seeing now in the centre of Mosul is Isil using things like chemical weapons. They are using brutal control measures. They are executing people for trying to leave. These are the types of things that are very easy to do when it's not your neighbours or people you have grown up with."

Several hundred Britons are estimated to be still inside Isil's self-styled caliphate and up to 150 are believed to have been killed fighting with jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria in the past five years.

The flood of hundreds of jihadists each month to join Isil's self-styled caliphate two years ago has dried up as the international coalition has cut routes in. As the caliphate shrinks, some jihadists are attempting to flee back to Europe, but are being killed or picked up by local Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish forces surrounding their shrinking enclave, Col Dorrian said.

"They are isolated and they have to move through a significant amount of territory that's controlled by either our ally Turkey or our partnered force, the Syrian defence forces in Syria, or Iraqi security forces," he said.

Meanwhile, Iraqi paramilitary units captured the northern province of Hatra yesterday, cutting off several desert tracks used by Isil to move between Iraq and Syria. Hatra, a city that flourished in the first century AD, lies 120km south of Mosul, where the militants have been fighting off a US-backed offensive since October.

Isil militants are now surrounded in the northwestern part of Mosul, including the Old City and its landmark Grand al-Nuri mosque. (© Daily Telegraph London)

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