Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has begun fortifying its positions in and around the city of Mosul as Iraqi and Kurdish troops gear up for a major offensive to recapture the city, a senior Kurdish official in Nineveh governorate said on Monday.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) official Saeed Mamozeini said that ISIS is fortifying its positions across Nineveh governorate, preparing to defend territory under its control from an expected military offensive to recapture the city of Mosul, the second largest in Iraq, which the group occupied in June.
“ISIS has begun to dig a trench around the city. This trench is an expansion of an older trench and is part of a series of preparations being carried out by ISIS to confront any attack by Peshmerga or Iraqi forces,” Mamozeini said.
Mamozeini, who is director of the KDP’s media bureau in Nineveh governorate, also said that Mosul residents who have not already fled the city are now trying to do so, particularly as ISIS is forcibly recruiting fighters from the city to aid in its “defense.”
“ISIS is continuing to arrest civilians in Mosul and send them to the battlefronts. It demands payment of up to 1.5 million Iraqi dinars for any person who does not want to join its ranks, and those who cannot pay are imprisoned,” he said.
He described the situation in Mosul under ISIS as being fraught, with the group carrying out harsh punishments against residents they believe to have broken Islamic Shari’a laws, including the cutting off of hands.
The Kurdish official also claimed that Mosul’s new ISIS governor, Mohammed Hussein Al-Jubouri, had narrowly survived an ambush in southern Mosul on Sunday, which had resulted in the death of at least eight of his bodyguards.
Jubouri was only recently been appointed the commander of the city after ISIS executed his predecessor, Muammar Tawhlah, on charges of espionage.
Nineveh MP Nahla Al-Hibabi confirmed that ISIS is reinforcing its positions in Mosul and preparing to defend the city from allied Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
“ISIS has transferred more than 800 family members of its Chechen, Afghan and Syrian foreign fighters [outside of Mosul] to Tel Afar,” she added.
Tel Afar, located approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Mosul, has been under ISIS control for many months, with most residents already having fled the city. “These foreigners now make up 98 percent of Tel Afar,” she said.