Two weeks ago, Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi military units launched an assault on Mosul – Iraq’s second largest city that fell to ISIS in June 2014. Though progress has been slow, allied forces have made significant gains, assisted by US, French, and British special forces as well as intense airstrikes levied at ISIS positions.
The advance has moved most rapidly through the Nineveh Plains, a region east of Mosul. Through the south, movement has been hindered by oilfield fires left by retreating ISIS units.
Frontline forces have had to deal with dozens of vehicle suicide attacks carried out by ISIS fighters, who have barreled pickup trucks laden with explosives into Kurdish and Iraqi units.
The offensive is a very, very big deal. Mosul has been a crown jewel for ISIS leadership, who deemed the city the seat of the terror organization’s “caliphate.” The city’s pre-ISIS population – which numbered nearly 2 million – certainly made it the largest urban center in ISIS’ possession.
That population figure, however, has dwindled dramatically, and those who remain face the grim prospect of being used as human shields to blunt the impending offensive, which could happen soon with the closest Kurdish-Iraqi forces entrenched a mere 7 kilometers from Mosul.
Pending a successful retaking of the city, we will certainly learn of the horror that ISIS has subjected its inhabitants to. Reports over the past couple of years have indicated a harsh medieval penal code and public executions. With the city’s liberation, those details will only come into sharper focus.
But human rights organizations are already getting an idea of the extent of ISIS’ terror. In the village of Tuloul Naser on October 20, advancing forces found the bodies of 70 executed civilians, presumably killed by fleeing ISIS fighters. Other reports received by human rights officials include the killing of 50 police officers held in ISIS custody, the murder and public display of dead civilians to spread terror, and the killing of trailing girls, women, and disabled civilians who slowed a forced relocation.
ISIS could very well lose Mosul this fall, in a triumph against the murderous death cult, which has ruined countless lives, subjected hundreds of thousands to its regressive ideology, and destroyed priceless artifacts. Though – heartbreakingly – it appears that their tenuous position will drive them to commit further acts of terror.
Let’s hope ISIS’ collapse in Mosul is as swift as possible.