ISIS’s hearts and minds campaign in Mosul

Reuters reports: It’s been a week since Sunni rebels took Iraq’s biggest northern city from the army and – with security forces still on the defensive – the fighters in Mosul are settling down and starting to govern their new territory.

Militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, al Qaeda’s wayward Iraqi offspring who spearheaded last week’s offensive across north and western Iraq, drive around Mosul in stolen police cars and station themselves at banks and government buildings.

Haitham Abdul Salam, a 50-year-old blacksmith, says he has resumed work in his shop as life readjusts itself. He says ISIL have removed the huge blast walls from the streets as well as checkpoints in an attempt to ease traffic in the city.

“ISIL treat us in a nice way. There is no harassment, even for women. Prices for foodstuffs are less,” he said, although he added that government salaries are not being paid.

The hearts and minds campaign in Mosul mirrors ISIL’s tactics in Syria, where it has exploited the power vacuum left by a three-year civil war in order to take ground.

In the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIL moved in with other rebel battalions and started providing food and money to locals. It was only once ISIL had solidified its control of Raqqa did it open courts which imposed public executions and amputations.

Then it violently evicted the rebel groups that helped it take Raqqa and destroyed religious shrines.

In Mosul, unveiled women still walk through the streets and ISIL has stayed away from Christian churches, including the Tomb of Jonah.

However, militants razed the tomb of Ibn al-Athir, an Arab philosopher, according to eyewitnesses, and state television announced on Wednesday that ISIL had in fact threatened to demolish Jonah’s Tomb within three days.

ISIL are being aided by secular Baathists as well as Sunni groups that disagree with their vision of an Islamic Caliphate but share a deep hatred for the Shi’ite-led government in Baghdad.

A member of the Islamic Army, a smaller insurgent group, said ISIL had agreed to run the city in consultation with all Sunni groups through a military council and that all decisions would be consultative.

The different armed factions were debating who to nominative for governor of the city, he added. The favorites are thought to include several ex-generals from Saddam Hussein’s army. [Continue reading…]

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