Islamic State Fighters Make Last Effort To Occupy Iraqi Town By Using Network Of Tunnels

Confusion ensued following Iraqi Kurdish forces coming under heavy fire from a home that sat on the edge of the town of Bashiqa, an Islamic State-occupied territory. When the forces stormed the house, it was found empty.

Corporal Hawkar Weis pointed to the home that is now under the control of Kurdish forces and stated, “The fiercest resistance was coming from here. But when we entered, there was no one here. The Daesh fighters were using tunnels to cross from this house to the other neighbourhoods.”

The town of Bashiqa was, however, retaken by Kurdish forces from IS control over the past week, following street fighting and air strikes having heavily destroyed many of the locale’s homes and the main row of shops. Recapturing it was a final stage to secure the eastern portion of Mosul and has involved an offensive by Iraqi forces that has been backed by a US-led coalition to finally retake the city that has been a major stronghold of Islamic State fighters.

Although the town was retaken, forces state that it was a struggle to clear out a number of IS fighters who were using a network of tunnels that were dug under the residential neighborhoods of Bashiqa.

On Tuesday, jihadists made a final stand against the Kurdish forces and used the tunnels to move fighters around, as well as suicide bombers for the purpose of causing as much destruction and damage as possible. The home which the forces recently received such heavy gun fire out of, was the central area the IS fighters operated out from.

Upon inspection of the home, members of the Kurdish forces, such as Weis, ventured in to find filthy bedding and mounds of dirt in each room which indicated that the IS fighters were digging the tunnels and dumping the dirt inside so not to be spotted by Iraqi forces flying overhead. Major General Iskandar Hajii spoke about the discovery.

“IS fighters are protecting themselves from coalition air strikes by hiding in the tunnels. We have a problem with these tunnels — we can’t do anything except wait for them to come out so we can fight them.”

The fighters certainly did damage during their last stand on Tuesday. At least one officer of a senior rank was killed when three suicide bombers made their way from the tunnel in eastern Bashiqa.

“A major general came back from retirement to fight Daesh here. Suicide bombers jumped out of one of the tunnels. He was able to kill two of them, but the third one detonated himself,” Weis said.

Another member of the Kurdish forces, Corporal Idris, made his way into the mouth of the tunnel from the home that was the central rally point of the IS fighters. AFP states that when he got down far enough, he turned back to state his concerns and instructed that all should stay above ground seeing as it wasn’t clear as to who may remain, or if bombs may be planted.

As the Iraqi forces push IS fighters back and away from Mosul in addition as to clearing them from small villages, a number of discoveries have been made including a massive grave where hundreds of bodies that cannot be identified remain. There has been evidence discovered that indicates many, if not all, were tortured and executed. Reuters shares such findings.

“Aid organizations and local officials have cited reports that Islamic State executed dozens of people in Hammam al-Alil and barracks nearby on suspicion of planning rebellions in and around Mosul to aid the advancing troops. The Iraqi military said its forces at the complex discovered the decapitated corpses of at least 100 civilians.”

[Featured Image by John Moore/Getty Images]