The Iraqi Army is advancing into Mosul faster than expected, causing jihadist defenders to brace for defeat.
"The Mosul operation is proceeding ahead of schedule due to the deterioration of ISIS defenses," Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Gen. Othman Al-Ghanimi said Tuesday.
Islamic State terrorists have destroyed their administrative buildings in the city, including offices containing passports and tax records.
"Daesh has been burning its financial and commercial files in its hisbah centers and ‘sharia courts' in central Mosul to prevent them from falling into the hands of Iraqi security agencies," according to Ali Sada, editor of Daesh Daily. Local sources told Sumaria TV on Tuesday that ISIS burned down its headquarters in Mosul.
ISIS jihadists fell back without a fight in the towns south of Mosul on Monday. The terrorist group executed 25 of its soldiers south of Mosul on Tuesday for fleeing from the front line, according to Hashim Al-Hashimi, a war researcher in Baghdad.
Also on Tuesday, armed groups on the eastern side of Mosul killed more than 24 ISIS fighters, according to Emanuel Khoshaba, general secretary of the Assyrian Patriotic Party. Six ambushes on ISIS fighters were reported in different neighborhoods in Mosul over the last 48 hours. The terror group's police force is still searching its ranks for members who supported a coup attempt against ISIS leadership on Monday. ISIS security checkpoints identified three men on Tuesday and executed them on the spot.
Resistance slogans calling for an anti-ISIS uprising and supporting the Iraqi security agencies are being posted in Mosul neighborhoods with increasing frequency. ISIS vehicles with loudspeakers have accused the people of Mosul of "betraying" the caliphate, according to sources in the city. One source told Sumaria TV that ISIS has begun to abandon its familiar methods of retribution against areas where the slogans appear for fear of fueling resentment.
Mobile phone service has resumed in Mosul, a local source said. ISIS members have disappeared from the streets but market areas remain closed. Residents are staying home and following events by phone and over the Internet, Daesh Daily reported.
"Some ISIS terrorists, dressed in Iraqi forces uniforms and in vehicles carrying Iraqi flags, are moving in areas not yet liberated south of Mosul in order to arrest people who show support for Iraqi forces," Sada reported Wednesday. This scheme allowed ISIS to capture and execute approximately 40 men and boys in Hammam Al-Alil, a town 20 miles south of Mosul, according to informed sources cited in a report on Maalomah TV.
Civilians in Tel Afar, 40 miles west of Mosul, and in towns to the south and east of Mosul, have been forced to evacuate their homes and move into Mosul under threat of death, according to Al-Hashimi and media sources. Observers said they will be used as human shields.
More than 18 villages and towns on the perimeter of Mosul have been liberated, Peshmerga forces announced Tuesday. Armed men in the town of Lazaqa south of Mosul killed ISIS fighters defending their village, then telephoned the Iraqi Army to plead for help. Some men in Lazaqa and other villages suffered quick retribution from ISIS. The terrorists executed 89 members of the Jubour tribe from villages of Lazaqa, Hod, Al-Sert, Tulol Al-Nasir, and Refela, according to Saad Al-Khalis in Baghdad. "It also arrested and executed 23 Christians from Nimrud villages for celebrating ISIS defeats," Daesh Daily reported Wednesday.
The Iraqi Army slowed the pace of its advance in order to minimize civilian casualties and clear scores of mines planted in villages it was retaking. "The Christian city of Qaraqosh [10 miles southeast of Mosul] was liberated on Tuesday, but the army had to pull back because of sniping," said Sargis Sangari, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who is advising the Assyrian Army in the Nineveh plains northeast of Mosul. "ISIS is using snipers to lure artillery shelling of the town so that all housing stock will be reduced to rubble. That way, Assyrian Christians will have no homes to return to," Sangari said. "They did the same thing last year in Sinjar City and many other cities."
Although most residents are staying put, more than 134 families evacuated to army reception centers surrounding Mosul during the last 48 hours, according to Al-Hashimi.
Rumors have spread that ISIS leader and self-proclaimed Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be dead. He has been mentioned in ISIS press releases but not seen for more than a year. It has been reported that he may have been killed by an airstrike near the Syrian border.
Baghdadi was unable to move after being severely wounded by an airstrike in west Anbar Province last year, according to Iraq Press, citing Russian sources.
"Daesh media people have reported him going to certain places or making important decisions lately, but these Baghdadi ‘sightings' have not been accompanied by a photograph, and Daesh is generally eager to issue photos," Sada said. "The longer time goes on, the less likely his return to action seems to be. As of now, Baghdadi’s reported appearances are more like Elvis sightings."
Saad Al-Khalis in Baghdad contributed to this report.