by WorldTribune Staff, September 21, 2016
The Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is reportedly digging a moat around the perimeter of Mosul to impede advancing Iraqi government forces.
“Recent activities suggest ISIL will dig in, presaging a long and bloody fight that could displace large numbers of civilians,” a report by the UK’s Independent said on Sept. 19.
Iraqi forces launched an operation on Sept. 19 to retake the northern town of Shirqat, seen as a key gateway to enable an assault on Mosul, which sources say could come as soon as next month.
Residents of Mosul, a city of 2 million people which fell to ISIL in 2014, say the terror organization has sealed off entire districts and is building a network of tunnels across the city.
ISIL has also positioned tanks of oil nearby to create a “river of fire”
“Oil trenches, tunnels and suicide attacks will not save Daesh from defeat but they will make the battle more challenging,” said Sabah al-Numani, a spokesman for the counter-terrorism forces which are expected to spearhead the offensive. “We are confident Daesh will fight to their last fighter to keep holding Mosul.”
Sources said ISIL left a gap in the moat on the western approach to Mosul so jihadists could slip out through the desert and into Syria should they decide to surrender the city.
According to the Independent report, dozens of trucks were seen earlier this month carrying large barriers into the airport on the city’s southern outskirts, which could be an entry point for attacking Iraqi forces, local officials and residents said.
The militants “are using the blast walls to make Mosul airport unfit for planes to land”, said Iraqi Army Col. Mohammed Adnan al-Taie.
ISIL used the same tactic before fleeing Qayyara air base, 40 miles south of Mosul, which U.S. forces are helping to refurbish to use as a logistics hub for the Mosul operation.
Residents in Mosul say the terror group has been digging tunnels throughout the city, which the jihadists have used in the past to launch attacks on Iraqi forces, store supplies and hide from airstrikes.
“I can see Daesh [ISIL] digging tunnels everywhere and covering the entrances with sewage covers. My neighbor’s house is now part of a network of tunnels that reaches across the city,” a resident from the Sumer district of southeastern Mosul told Reuters.