Sunni residents return to Mosul

The Associated Press reports: Days after Iraq’s second-largest city fell to al-Qaida-inspired fighters, some Iraqis are already returning to Mosul, lured back by insurgents offering cheap gas and food, restoring power and water and removing traffic barricades.

Many people appear excited to return, taking sectarian pride in the extremist Sunni group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Some see them as liberators.

“I hope God supports them and makes them victorious over the oppression of al-Maliki,” said 80-year-old Abu Thaer.

He spoke at the Khazer checkpoint on the northern frontier of the largely autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, 65 miles (105 kilometers) from Mosul. Five veiled women and six children were crammed into the back seat of his car.

They were among tens of thousands of people who fled their homes as Islamic State fighters and other Sunni militants seized much of northern Iraq, including Mosul and Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

Many Sunni Arab men and women said they left, not because they feared the insurgents, but because of the risk of retaliatory airstrikes by Iraqi government forces.

Their return underscores the profound sectarianism cleaving Iraq and the depth of anger that many Sunnis harbor toward al-Maliki’s government, which they accuse of discrimination and harassment and pushing Sunnis to the political margins.

“We see that they have made Mosul better,” said Abu Mohammed, a 34-year-old taxi driver who ferries returnees back to the city. “The water is back. The electricity is back. The prices are lower.”

The anger many Iraqis felt toward al-Maliki’s government only increased after soldiers abandoned Mosul, fleeing before civilians. It’s likely that many Iraqi troops fled because they sensed insurgents would be welcomed by long-resentful Sunnis, and they did not want to risk their lives for a senseless battle.

“The army was only good at oppressing Sunnis, but it was nothing more,” Abu Thaer said. [Continue reading…]

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