Isil crucifies Mosul 'spies' as a warning to residents
Isil militants fighting to hold on to their Mosul stronghold have displayed the crucified bodies of five people they said gave information to "the enemy", and are back on the city streets policing the length of men's beards, residents said.
The five bodies were put on display at a road junction, a clear message to the city's remaining 1.5 million residents that the ultra-hardline Islamists are still in charge, despite losing territory to the east of the city.
Thousands of Isil fighters have run Mosul, the largest city under their control in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, since they conquered large parts of northern Iraq in 2014.
They are now battling a 100,000-strong coalition including Iraqi troops, security forces, Kurdish peshmerga and mainly Shi'ite paramilitary groups, which has almost surrounded the city and has broken into eastern neighbourhoods.
Trapped residents who spoke by telephone said many parts of the city were calmer than they had been for days, allowing people to venture out to seek food, even in areas which have seen heavy fighting over the last week.
"I went out in my car for the first time since the start of the clashes in the eastern districts," said one Mosul resident. "I saw some of the Hisba elements of Daesh [Isil] checking people's beards and clothes and looking for smokers."
Isil's Hisba force is a morality police unit which imposes the Sunni jihadists' interpretation of Islamic behaviour. It forbids smoking, says women should be veiled and wear gloves, and bans men from Western-style dress including jeans and logos.
Hisba units patrol the city in specially marked vehicles.
"It looks like they want to prove their presence after they disappeared for the last 10 days, especially on the eastern bank," the resident said.
Iraqi military officials say they have sources inside the city, helping them identify Isil positions for targeting by the US-led air coalition supporting the campaign.
The gruesome public display of the bodies in east Mosul appeared to be a warning against other potential informers.
"I saw five corpses of young men who had been crucified at a road junction in east Mosul," not far from districts which had seen heavy fighting," said another resident.
"The Daesh people hung the bodies out and said that these were agents passing news to the infidel forces and apostates," he said, referring to the Western allies backing the campaign and the Shi'ite-led government of prime minister Haider al-Abadi.
In another sign of a clampdown on contact with the outside world, one retired policeman said Isil officials were trying to inspect SIM cards to check on all communications.