The following is an excerpt from ROD NORDLAND | October 16, 2016 | Nytimes.com |
ERBIL, Iraq — With Iraqi forces surrounding Mosul for an imminent assault, residents are hoarding food and furtively scrawling resistance slogans on walls, the city’s Islamic State rulers are building tunnels and staying out of sight of drones, and Iraqi helicopters are dumping leaflets predicting that the end of the terrorist reign is near.
Interviews with roughly three dozen people from Mosul, including refugees who managed to sneak out in recent weeks and residents reached by contraband cellphones in the city, portray a pressure-cooker-like atmosphere as everyone gets ready for the Iraqi assault. After dark on Sunday evening, armored vehicles on flatbed trucks were seen moving west from Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region. Erbil is about 50 miles from Mosul.
The stakes are high for Mosul. It is the country’s second-biggest city, a Sunni stronghold long disaffected from Iraq’s Shiite leaders. The city is also the largest ever ruled by the extremists and, as their designated capital, a potent symbol of their claim to statehood.
Just getting out of Mosul has become difficult and dangerous: Those who are caught face million-dinar fines, unless they are former members of the Iraqi police or army, in which case the punishment is beheading.
While the civilians described stockpiling food in basement hiding places, the jihadists were said to be frantically making military preparations within Mosul, temporarily fleeing the streets — most likely to an extensive tunnel network below — at the first signs of an airstrike, according to the new accounts.
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