Special Report: Under encircle in Mosul, Islamic State turns to executions and paranoia

ERBIL, Iraq A few weeks ago, a chairman inside Mosul began to send content messages to Iraqi infantry comprehension in Baghdad.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a personality of Islamic State, “has turn intemperate,” pronounced a early Nov message, created by an confidant inside a city who has strike with a organisation though is not a member of it.

“He has cut down on his movements and neglects his appearance,” a summary read. “He lives subterraneous and has tunnels that widen to opposite areas. He doesn’t nap though his self-murder bomber vest so he can set it off if he’s captured.”

The content message, that Reuters has seen, was one of many describing what was function inside Islamic State as Iraqi, Kurdish and American infantry began their debate to retake a group’s northern Iraqi building of Mosul.

The texts, along with interviews with comparison Kurdish officials and recently prisoner Islamic State fighters, offer an scarcely minute design of a nonconformist organisation and a leader’s state of mind as they make what competence be their final mountain in Iraq. The messages report a organisation and a personality that sojourn lethal, though that are also seized by flourishing guess and paranoia.

Defectors or informants were being frequently executed, a chairman texted. Baghdadi, who announced himself a caliph of a outrageous tie of Iraq and Syria dual years ago, had turn generally questionable of people tighten to him. “Sometimes he used to fun around,” one content said. “But now he no longer does.”

While Reuters has accurate a temperament of a confidant who has been texting Iraqi infantry intelligence, a news organisation couldn’t exclusively endorse a information in a messages. But a design that emerges fits with comprehension cited by dual Kurdish officials – Masrour Barzani, conduct of a Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Security Council, and Lahur Talabany, who is arch of counter-terrorism and executive of a KRG comprehension agency.

Talabany and other comprehension chiefs pronounced a infantry bloc is creation delayed though solid swell opposite Islamic State. The bloc has challenging resources inside Mosul, they said, including lerned informers and residents who yield some-more simple notice by texting or phoning from a city’s outskirts. Some of a informants have families in Kurdistan whom a KRG pays.

The Kurds trust that a infantry conflict on Mosul, that began on Oct 17, is fueling Islamic State’s clarity of fear and mistrust. In a brief term, they said, a group’s mania with rooting out anyone who competence misuse it competence assistance convene fighters to urge Mosul. But a mania also means a organisation has incited inwards right as it faces a many critical hazard to a existence in Iraq given seizing around a third of a country’s domain in a summer of 2014.

The series of executions is a transparent pointer Islamic State is commencement to hurt, pronounced Karim Sinjari, interior apportion and behaving invulnerability apportion with a KRG, that controls a Kurdish area in northern Iraq.

As well, he said, many of a group’s middle Iraqi fighters miss a “strong faith in martyrdom that a jihadis have.”

“Most of a revolutionary Islamists who are fighting to a genocide are unfamiliar fighters, though their numbers during a frontline are reduction than before since they are removing killed in conflict and in self-murder attacks,” he said.

Barzani pronounced a flourishing paranoia has pushed Baghdadi and his tip lieutenants to pierce around a lot, serve spiteful a group’s ability to urge a city. Baghdadi, Barzani said, “is regulating all a opposite strategy to censor and strengthen himself: changing positions, regulating opposite ways of traveling, vital in opposite locations, regulating opposite communications.”

If a infantry bloc does pull Islamic State from Mosul, a Kurdish officials said, a organisation is expected to rush to Syria, from where it will poise a whinging hazard to Iraq by unchanging self-murder attacks and other guerilla tactics.


Islamic State has always been paranoid. Its order in Syria and Iraq has relied in immeasurable partial on a immeasurable comprehension network that uses everybody from children to battle-hardened former Baathists to view on both subjects and a possess officials. [Link to: here]

That paranoia appears to have reached new levels as Islamic State’s enemies advance. Suspicion grew in a weeks before supervision infantry began to confine Mosul in midst October.

Early final month, Islamic State leaders unclosed an middle tract opposite Baghdadi, according to Mosul residents and Iraqi confidence officials. Hatched by a heading Islamic State commander, a tract was foiled when an Islamic State confidence central found a write SIM label that contained a names of a plotters and showed their links to U.S. and Kurdish comprehension officers.

Retribution was brutal. Islamic State killed 58 suspected plotters by fixation them in cages and drowning them, according to residents and Iraqi officials.

Since then, Islamic State has executed another 42 people from middle tribes, Iraqi comprehension officers said. Those people were also held with SIM cards.

Possession of SIMs or any form of electronic communication now amounts to an involuntary genocide sentence, according to residents in Islamic State areas. The organisation has set adult checkpoints where a militants hunt people, and frequently mountain raids on areas strike by U.S. atmosphere strikes since Islamic State officials assume locals have helped to brand targets.

The confidant texting from Mosul is wakeful of a dangers. “I am articulate to we from a rooftop,” began one new message. “The planes are in a skies. Before we go behind down we will undo a messages and censor a SIM card.”


Islamic State relies on a network of child informers, a so called ashbal al khilafa or “cubs of a caliphate.”

“These immature boys eavesdrop and find out information from other kids about their fathers, brothers, and their activities”, pronounced Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraq supervision confidant and Islamic State expert. “In each travel there are one or dual ashbal al khilafa who view on a adults.”

The outrageous network of informants also hurts Islamic State, according to Lahur Talabany, arch of counter-terrorism for a KRG. Overwhelmed by information, a organisation is devoting a lot of a appetite to a possess people rather than a enemies. That fuels serve paranoia.

“There are unchanging (internal) plots opposite Baghdadi” Talabany told Reuters. “We see incidents like that on a weekly basis, and they take out their possess guys.”

Until a few months ago, Talabany said, he had a mole inside Baghdadi’s middle circle: an Islamic State commander who had once belonged to al-Qaeda.

“He was a Kurd innate in Hawija”, a Kurdish view arch said, disappearing to name a man. “He was one of my detainees. we expelled him a year before Daesh (Islamic State) arrived.”

After Islamic State seized Mosul, a commander-turned-agent infiltrated a organisation and was done a infantry officer. From that position, he began feeding a Kurds “valuable daily information.”

The representative told Talabany that Baghdadi consulted closely with tip aides, including Saudis who he pronounced were experts on Sharia law. Saudi Arabia has pronounced that there are Saudi nationals in Islamic State.

“He told me Baghdadi has got charisma, and has connections, though that he is a front. And that a committees around him take a categorical decisions, even on a infantry side,” Talabany said.

The representative told Talabany he had met Baghdadi a few times and was plotting to kill a Islamic State leader. But before a commander could act, Islamic State detected he was operative as an agent. A few months ago, Talabany said, Islamic State publicly executed him.


The group’s heartless methods were recounted in a singular speak with dual prisoner Islamic State fighters final week. Reuters met a fighters during a Kurdish counter-terrorism devalue in a city of Sulaimaniya. A Kurdish comprehension central and an interrogator sat in on a interviews though did not interfere.

Ali Kahtan, 21, was prisoner after he killed 5 Kurdish fighters during a troops hire seized by Islamic State in a northern city of Hawija.

Kahtan’s trail to militancy began during a age of 13, he said. He became a member of al Qaeda and afterwards assimilated Islamic State when a crony took him for eremite lessons and infantry training during a Hawija mosque. The training, he said, concerned training how to use a appurtenance gun and pistol. Trainees were also shown how to cut someone’s throat with a bayonet from an AK-47.

Kahtan pronounced that a year ago, a middle emir systematic him to cut a throats of 5 Kurdish fighters. The emir stood over him while he did it, he said.

“One after a other with a knife, a Kalashnikov blade, we did it. Really, we felt nothing.” Afterwards, he said, he returned home. “I spotless adult and sat down to have cooking with my parents.”

Kahtan pronounced Islamic State fighters no longer speak about holding over Baghdad, though concentration usually on Mosul, and how to partisan some-more fighters to strengthen it.

A second detainee, Bakr Salah Bakr, 21, who was held as he prepared to lift out a self-murder conflict in Kurdistan, pronounced Islamic State primarily attempted to partisan him by Facebook to join a quarrel in Mosul. They are unfortunate for Iraqi fighters, he indicated, since a liquid of unfamiliar fighters dusty adult after Turkey solemnly sealed a borders a year ago.

Iraqi comprehension officials contend they trust Baghdadi is not in Mosul though in al-Ba’aj district, a bedouin city on a corner of Nineveh province, that borders Syria. Ba’aj has a race of about 20,000 and is dominated by extremists constant to Islamic State.

The area is heavily fortified, with prolonged tunnels that were built after a tumble of Saddam when a city became a entertainment post for bootlegging weapons and volunteers from Syria into Iraq.

Even if Mosul and Baghdadi fall, pronounced Kurdish counter-terrorism arch Talabany, Islamic State is expected to persist. “They will go behind to some-more uneven warfare, and we will be saying self-murder attacks inside KRG, inside Iraqi cities and elsewhere.”

Security arch Barzani agreed. “The quarrel opposite IS is going to be a prolonged fight,” he said. “Not usually militarily, though also economically, ideologically.”

Barzani, who is a son of maestro Kurdish personality and KRG President Masoud Barzani, estimated there are around 10,000 Islamic State self-murder bombers in Iraq and Syria. He pronounced Islamic State had prepared waves of fighters it was now deploying to urge Mosul.

“You see a initial organisation come to a frontline and they know they’re going to be killed by a planes overhead, though they still come. And afterwards a second organisation come to a same place where a others were hit,” he said. “They see a limbs and a bodies all over and they know they will die, though they still do it. They see feat in failing for their possess cause.”

(Edited by Simon Robinson)

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