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ISIS Media Center in Upscale West Mosul Neighborhood | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iraqi families walk down a road as they flee Mosul on March 3, 2017, during an offensive by security forces to retake the western parts of the city from ISIS. ARIS MESSINIS / AFP

Mosul- Iraqi forces have found an ISIS media center in an upscale part of a west Mosul neighborhood now recaptured by them.

Inside a two-story villa, complete with a garden and a shed, ISIS produced placards and broadcast its Al-Bayan radio station, according to Iraqi forces and residents.

“The neighbors told us that they (ISIS) produced their adverts here,” said Lieutenant Colonel Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi, of the interior ministry’s elite Rapid Response Division.

“And after we came in and examined it completely, we discovered that it was a media center that broadcast the Al-Bayan radio station,” Mohammedawi told Agence France Presse.

The building was set alight by jihadists as they fled the neighborhood, Mohammedawi said, and little was left behind.

“Everything is totally burnt… we found a few computers, adverts, some CDs, which will be taken to the intelligence unit,” said Mohammedawi.

“This place used to belong to ISIS, no one entered it because it was forbidden,” said neighbor Obaida Radwan.

“They used it as a media point, to print their adverts, the ones you see on the street,” he told AFP. “It was also used… for the Al-Bayan radio station.”

ISIS has developed a sophisticated media output that experts say is a key plank of its operations.

It has used Al-Bayan, along with its other media channels, to claim attacks overseas, including the Orlando nightclub shooting that killed 50 people in June.

It also regularly distributes material intended to lionize its fighters and romanticize life under its rule in the hope of attracting recruits.

“Propaganda is everything for ISIS,” said Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization at Kings College.

“Not just in terms of its ability to brand itself around the world but also to sustain some level of acquiescence in its heartland in Syria and Iraq,” he said.

ISIS’ own media, as well as discoveries made in territory recaptured from the group, show it often erects large placards with its religious rules, including instructing women on the all-covering clothes they must wear in its domain.

Winter said it was unsurprising the group had set fire to its Jawsaq center to protect its secrets.

“They are perhaps more secretive about the media than they are about almost any other aspect of the organization,” he said.

“That’s because it’s so important to them, it’s a way for them to weather losses, to embed themselves in people’s mind even if their territorial hold is tenuous.”

Among the ashes of the villa’s contents was one untouched box outside by a window. It contained hundreds of square covers for use with CDs distributed by ISIS.

Winter said the remaining contents of the house suggested it could have been used to produce materials to be distributed at “media kiosks,” which ISIS set up in areas under its control to disseminate propaganda touting its achievements.

“I’d be very surprised if they made any of the videos, did any of the post-production or kept any of the narrators in a place as public as that,” he said.

“I think that would be somewhere very, very secret.”