ISIS Fighters Flee Fallujah in Dresses

Iraqi Army battles to secure district, shift to Mosul

civilians flee Fallujah June 2
Internally displaced civilians from Fallujah flee their homes on June 2 / AP
June 22, 2016

Fighting continues on the outskirts of Fallujah even as the Iraqi Army has captured the heart of the city, and heavy combat has erupted in the plains of Northern Iraq as the government gears up for an effort to seize back the city of Mosul from ISIS.

The campaign to retake Mosul is expected to start after Fallujah District is fully under the control of Iraqi forces, which may take weeks. The next step will be to clear ISIS from its stronghold in the Makhmour and Qayara region, bounded by Mosul on the north and Kirkuk at its eastern edge.

Meanwhile, hundreds or possibly thousands of ISIS soldiers have shaved their beards, cut their long locks of hair and left Fallujah with some 68,000 internally displaced residents, according to provincial officials.

The commander of a Tribal Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) announced that 600 ISIS terrorists had been arrested in groups of internally displaced people fleeing the city. The arrested men were identified because their names were found on Iraqi police terrorist lists, according to the Buratha news website.

An Iraqi security source says Iraqi Federal Police found an ISIS hideout containing women’s clothes and makeup used by the terrorists for disguises. Six terrorists dressed as women were captured by Iraqi Federal Police, according to Iraqi news sources.

"The problem is that the identification of the terrorists lies with local authorities. It is a sensitive but very important issue," according to Iraqi police, who say some of the terrorists have relatives or friends in the local tribal authorities who might protect them or accept bribes.

Iraqi war observers say that during the last week ISIS reversed policy and allowed 30,000 civilians to stream out on Thursday and Friday, possibly to facilitate the departure of ISIS troops in the columns of internally displaced persons.

The Iraqi Minister of Defense announced on Saturday the start of Qayara "liberation operations." South Mosul tribal Popular Mobilization Forces will participate along with regular Iraqi Army.

Security sources estimate that there are 1250 to 1500 ISIS fighters in the Qayara area. A little more than half are Iraqis and the rest are foreign fighters, according to Iraqi news sites.

As Iraqi forces gained control of Fallujah, heavy fighting erupted in North Saladin Province in the Tooz district, 120 miles north of Baghdad and at Baji, the refinery center north of Baghdad.

The head of the Turkmen Rescue Foundation, Dr. Ali Al Bayati, says the Tooz police chief, Colonel Mustafa Al Amerli, his deputy, and five policemen were killed Thursday when an IED exploded under their vehicle near Amerli.

"Colonel Mustafa Al Amerli has been respected by the Turkmen residents as a resourceful and heroic leader of counter-terrorism since the ISIS incursion in June 2014," Al Bayati said. The convoy was on its way to reinforce Iraqi forces clashing with ISIS.

A spokesman for the Anbar tribes says only 10 percent of Fallujah city remains under ISIS control and says ISIS still has some pockets in the northern parts of the city.

By all accounts, the battle for Fallujah and the manner in which Iraqi security forces handle the civilian population is a preamble for the recapture of Mosul, a city believed to have 1.9 million residents today. As in Fallujah, the city is home to a high-majority Sunni population.

Iraqi armored columns and counter-terrorism units are still fighting pockets of ISIS terrorists that have vehicle bombs that can be manned by suicide bomber in the western and northern outskirts of Fallujah. According to some Iraqi media, even after dozens of car-rigging factories have been captured, ISIS still has as many as 400 vehicle bombs to use. These can be driven or detonated in place.

Although ISIS has steadily lost territory for months, the challenge for the Iraqi Army and its coalition partners will be to win the peace that must follow the battles. Despite orders by Iraqi generals to treat the Fallujah residents humanely, reports are surfacing of the extrajudicial killing of 17 civilians by the Shia militia inside Fallujah and torture of dozens of Fallujah men for as much as a week before they were remanded to camps for internally displaced persons, according to Al Jazeera.

There was encouraging news following the removal of ISIS leadership in Fallujah.  The Iraqi Federal Police issued a statement saying its troops found the former Fallujah police chief, Colonel Mahmoud Al-Eissawi, alive in a Daesh prison in Fallujah city. Iraqi Federal Police found three ISIS prisons in Hay Nazal: one for regular citizens, one for its terrorists, and a third for Iraqi security personnel.

The director of the Kurdish Regional Government’s Yazidi Affairs Office reports Iraqi forces freed 354 Yazidi women in southern Fallujah. He says Iraqi forces are keeping the women in Ameriyat Al-Falluja for the moment. They will transport them to Kurdistan in coordination with the Yazidi Affairs Office, according to Iraqi news sources.

As Coalition forces put ISIS loyalists on the run from Fallujah to Kirkuk, some ISIS cadre are surrendering. A Ninewa Operations Command source says 30 terrorists surrendered to Iraqi forces near Sultan Abdullah, next to Makhmur and Qayara, 50 miles east of Mosul. According to Bas News, a Kurdish news site, a Peshmerga Ministry source has reported that five terrorists surrendered to Kurdish units southeast of Mosul.

Ali Sada contributed to this report.

Published under: Iraq , ISIS