Exclusive: bombs, booby traps hamper Mosul mop-up operations
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Iraqi forces clearing up Mosul’s Old City have to deal with explosive devices left behind by the Islamic State (IS) group, as well as jihadists hiding in basements, a FRANCE 24 team embedded with Iraqi counterterror forces discovers.
Days after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory here, an eerie silence has descended on the Old City.
Iraqi forces say they have seized the city from IS control. But for Iraqi counterterrorism forces, the work isn't done yet.
"When you are moving with the soldiers…there are many [dangerous] corners inside the houses. There can be someone hiding or there's a bomb inside the house," explains Lt. Col. Salaam Hussein, head of Iraq's Counterterrorism Force.
A tour with Lt. Col. Hussein's forces of a neighbourhood recaptured just days earlier, offered a glimpse of how the IS group managed its operations in this Iraqi city. In one house, troops discovered boxes full of drones that the jihadists used for surveillance and to drop explosives on Iraqi forces.
In another, the troops find a collection of suicide belts and vests. "This basement was a workshop for explosive belts. Across the street, we find what was once the media department of the Islamic State group, in charge of producing propaganda materials", explained Lt. Col. Hussein.
The battle may be over, but securing the peace in Iraq will not be easy. Prime Minister Abadi faces the challenge of preventing revenge killings that could create more instability, as well as stemming sectarian tensions between Iraq's Shiite majority and its increasingly disenfranchised Sunnis. Ethnic strife has dogged Iraq since a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
In his first Friday sermon since the proclamation of victory in Mosul, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shi’ite cleric, urged his compatriots to avoid violence and sectarianism.