ARLINGTON, Va. — The spokesman for Iraq’s joint operations command said that about 80 percent of the male and female suicide bombers unleashed by ISIS in the last wave of the successful offensive to retake Mosul were foreign fighters.
Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool told Pentagon reporters on Thursday that the nine-month operation had gone as planned, with some changes based on circumstances such as geography and enemy defense as well as cautiousness as Iraqi forces tried to not hit civilians being used as human shields by the terror group.
“Before the beginning of the military operation to liberate the city of Mosul, the purpose was to liberate the person, the human, before liberating the land itself,” Rasool said. “Therefore, we considered this a human victory before a victory of a location, of a land. We liberated millions of people. We liberated them from terrorism, starvation and the worst terrorist organization in the world known to humankind. And we did a great job by this victory.”
Iraqi forces were banned from using heavy weapons in Mosul’s old city, with its narrow alleys. “But they booby-trapped everything,” the general added. “The buildings, the small areas and alleyways… and they also used innocent civilians as human shields. They really used these techniques, especially, after they apprehend women, children and elderly as human shields, and tried to hinder our progress so that we will face a major casualties among civilians and blame us for it.”
In the span of just one day, he said, 17 suicide bombers attacked Iraqi forces. Via ID documents on corpses, he added, Iraqi officials determined six female suicide bombers to be from outside the country.
“This victory that will lead us to continue liberating the other areas under their occupation,” Rasool said. “We still have a long way to go. We still have more military operations to conduct. And we have a long way to work.” Areas still under ISIS control include Tal Afar, Hawija, Anah and Al-Qa’im.
Peshmerga spokesman Brig. Gen. Halgurd Hikmat said together they “broke the myth about ISIS.”
“We hope that we could liberate the total Nineveh Plain, and Hawija and other areas from this terrorist group. And to get rid of them once for all, and bring back Iraq to before when they weren’t around. Terrorism could be eradicated in the region,” Hikmat declared. “And, of course, we need — after eradication of this terrorist group — to have plans to eradicate the ideology of Daesh in the region.”
The Kurdish force, which participated in the Mosul offensive up to the city limits, will “remain an active member” in the next operations to defeat ISIS, he vowed.
Rasool told reporters that “if you heard about civilian casualties, it’s because of what the terrorists did to them.” Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Saad Ma’an said any allegations of Iraqi forces committing human rights violations against ISIS fighters, including videos released on social media, will be investigated, adding “there is a lot of fabrications and rumors and false news regarding what happened there.”
Asked if Iraqi forces would let reclaimed areas fall again, Rasool said that “the whole world now trust and have confidence in the Iraqi military institution and all the Iraqi forces.”
“In stifling heat, and the Iraqi hero as a fighter is standing there protecting the citizens and fighting terrorists. No army can achieve what we achieved, and those belonging to the Iraqi army,” he said. “What they achieved … it’s going to be something they’re going to be talking at war colleges and the world entirely for years to come.”
Ma’an added that “nobody fights face-to-face on the ground facing” ISIS “other than Iraqi forces today — therefore, the Iraqi victory is a victory for all who love peace in the world.”
Rasool said Iraqi intelligence is still working on ISIS casualty figures, to be released at an upcoming press conference. “We killed a large number of the leadership, and they collapsed within their structure, and they’re fighting among themselves in Hawija and Tal Afar, currently,” he added.
The Shiite-majority Popular Mobilization Forces “currently control a large section of the border so that they won’t run or cross between the Iraqi or Syrian borders, so they don’t escape there, or don’t return to our country,” the general noted.