Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is ordering his men to fight to the death in Mosul. Suicide bombers and lone wolves have been encouraged to attack. It’s the kind of orders that desperate leaders issue. Baghdadi is thought to be in Mosul himself.
Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi has asked his fighters to do anything they can to defeat the “enemies of God” as Iraqi Security Forces and others close in on Mosul. In a speech broadcast around the world, Baghdadi asked suicide bombers and lone wolf attackers to strike around the world. “Turn the nights of the unbelievers into days, to wreck havoc in their land and make their blood flow as rivers,” he said.
ISIS is losing, badly as the Western-backed Iraqi Security Forces and anti-ISIS militias advance on Mosul. In Syria, Russian-backed Syrian troops and America-backed militias are also pressing towards Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de-facto capital, although very slowly.
The battle for Mosul is three weeks in, with Allied forces reaching the eastern outskirts of the city.
Iraqi government forces are pushing from the south and east. The Kurds are also contributing heavily to the combat, mostly from the north. The Kurds see Mosul as belonging to them and are likely to ask for the city to be placed under their control in a postwar Iraq or Kurdish state.
According to people in Mosul, ISIS has booby trapped the city. Even individual houses and children’s toys are wired with explosives to maim or kill people as they move back into the city.
Meanwhile, ISIS fighters are holding their ground. Those who retreat are subject to harsh penalties for their cowardice. Stories abound of their own fighters being gruesomely executed for the crime of retreating.
Despite the strict orders and the suicide bombings, Iraqi forces have entered the city as of Thursday, gaining a precious foothold in a neighborhood on the east side. From there, house-to-house fighting is expected.
Deep in Mosul, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is holed up in a secret location, probably a bunker. Al-Baghdadi has been trapped in the city, but probably intentionally. What benefit his death or capture will have is difficult to assess. However, he will be removed before the conclusion of the battle, of that all are certain.
Coalition aircraft continue to hit targets outside of the city, including suicide bombers who periodically attempt to drive from the city and into Iraqi lines.
ISIS has about 3,000 to 5,000 fighters in the city with heavily prepared defenses. There are 1 million people still living there. It may take three months to liberate the city, according to military experts.
By Marshall Connolly