ISIS fighters are reportedly in control of parts of Mosul, including the airport. Photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Heavy fighting between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Iraqi forces reigned for a fourth day in Mosul in northwestern Iraq, with insurgents reportedly taking over parts of the city, including the airport and governor’s office.
Local officials reported chaos in the city, with Iraqi army units aimlessly shelling populated areas for days. Most of the attacks by the al-Qaeda splinter group were reported in Mosul’s west bank and the city center.
In a telephone interview with Rudaw, Nineveh Governor Athil al-Nujaifi said that his staff is preparing to move the office to another building.
"The ISIS was able to get near the governorate building and gain control of it quickly," said Nujaifi. "We have prepared another building to perform the administrative affairs."
Meanwhile, Nineveh’s local government in the provincial council strongly denounced the Iraqi army for failing to counter the insurgents in Mosul.
"The Iraqi army is in chaos in Mosul,” said Bashar Kiki, the provincial council chief, who also demanded immediate intervention by Kurdish forces to repel ISIS attacks. He said that a curfew had been declared since Thursday, but that Iraqi forces had been shelling populated areas in vain.
"I want Peshmarga forces to come to Mosul at least in the east bank of the city, as there are lots of Kurds and other important government departments,” Kiki told Rudaw. “Even the governor of Nineveh demands the deployment of Peshmarga forces. He asked me to convey this message to the Kurdistan Region,” Kiki added.
In Erbil, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said that the KRG had tried its best to help with security in Mosul, but that efforts had been stymied by the negative response from Baghdad.
“In the past two years we tried our best to cooperate for the defence of Mosul, but unfortunately the response from Baghdad wasn’t such that could help us cooperate,” Barzani said in a statement.
He also urged people in the Kurdistan Region to spare no efforts to assist refugees fleeing Mosul, but emphasized that, “any assistance has to be done within legal and security framework.”
Barzani appealed to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to come to the help of Mosul refugees, and reassured Kurds living in territories outside the Kurdistan Region that “the security forces and the Peshmarga are as always in full readiness to protect those areas.”
Jabar Yawar, chief of staff at the Peshmarga ministry, explained that that the KRG could not legally deploy forces outside the Kurdistan Region without prior agreement with the federal government.
"Western Mosul is not related to the Kurdistan Region, and is not even a Kurdish area," said Yawar.
He added there was no excuse for more Peshmerga forces in the city’s east, because ISIS insurgents had not entered there. “Peshmarga forces are already in the east bank now, and have coordinated with the Iraqi army, but more deployment is not necessary for now," he added.
He said that information coming out of Mosul was also murky. “There is conflicting intelligence about the extent of ISIS control over the west bank.”
Brigadier General Saad Ma'an, spokesman for Iraq’s interior ministry, told Rudaw there is coordination and communication between Peshmarga forces and Iraqi security forces in Mosul.
"Until now, we have not requested the cooperation of the Peshmarga forces, but if required we will,” said Ma’an.
He said that Iraqi security forces had cleared out some areas of Mosul from ISIS fighters, and expected the whole city to be under control of government forces within 24 hours.
But several Kurdish and local officials in Nineveh gave different accounts of developments in the city, stressing that the army is losing control over Mosul’s west bank. ISIS militants started new attacks on the areas at the heart of Mosul after 3 pm on Tuesday.
"ISIS wants to raid the Nineveh operation command in Mosul. They have warned people in the area to evacuate so that they would attack the base," said Saeed Mamuzin, spokesman of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Mosul.
According to officials, more than 60,000 Iraqi security forces are based in Mosul. In addition, special forces SWAT teams have been deployed in the city. However, there are accounts of desertions and many soldiers defecting to ISIS.
"Many Iraqi soldiers and police defected or left their bases, and ISIS could confiscate lots of weapons and ammunition," said Mamuzin.