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Mar. 10, 2015 - Updated 04:16 UTC

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The Fall of Mosul One Year on

Jun. 10, 2015

People in Iraq’s second largest city have spent a year living under the control of the Islamic State militant group. Residents of Mosul are facing oppression, persecution and the threat of execution, and the militants have expanded their areas of control in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

Many of the people who fled Mosul are living in camps in the northern city of Arbil about 70 kilometers away.


NHK’s Dubai Bureau Chief Hideki Nakayama was there. He spoke with Aki Shibuya and Sho Beppu about the experiences of residents living under the militants’ control.

Shibuya: What’s life like in Mosul under the militants?

Nakayama: People say it’s like living in a huge prison, surrounded by walls and checkpoints. They can’t leave the city unless a relative stays behind as a guarantor to be killed if they don’t return. We’ve obtained video taken recently by a Mosul resident. It shows how Islamic State fighters are making their presence felt. Thousands of them, many from foreign countries, are positioned around the city. They’ve got a network of informants. They’ve banned cellphones and strictly control any information sent outside. They punish anyone who speaks out against them, even children and the elderly. They control the city through surveillance and intimidation.

Beppu: What are Iraqi government forces doing to take back Mosul?

Nakayama: Retaking it won’t be easy for Iraq’s military. They’ll have to overcome sectarian rifts to fight the militants. The Shia-led government needs Sunni Muslims to join the fight against the Sunni militants. Sunni militia groups are running training camps, but they’re short of weapons due to the lack of support from Iraq’s army. The government worries that Sunnis might turn against them after ousting the militants. Shia militias are growing stronger on the frontlines in western Iraq. But if the government uses them, it could anger the Sunni majority in the region. The government has to figure out the right mix of Sunnis and Shias, and how to work with the area’s Kurdish leaders. It’s hard to say when they’ll be ready to try to retake Mosul.


The fall of Mosul has proved to be a turning point for Islamic State. They have used the city as a base to expand their influence, and one year on, they’re as strong as ever. Leaders of the G7 nations meeting in Germany this week discussed how to fight them. They said the fight against terrorism and violent extremism has to remain the priority for the international community. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was invited to the summit and met with US President Barack Obama. Obama acknowledged the limits of the coalition. “We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis as well about how recruitment takes place, how that training takes place,” he said.

The militants declared their establishment of a caliphate last year after seizing Mosul and areas of Iraq near the Syrian border. Experts say they’re financing their activities by selling oil from the fields and refineries they’ve seized. They have proven adept at using video, the Internet, social networking services and other media to promote their ideas. UN officials say about 25,000 fighters from more than 100 countries had joined the group by March. Their brutality has shocked the world. They don’t hesitate to show executions of soldiers and journalists they’ve taken hostage.

Last August, a US-led coalition launched airstrikes on militants approaching Arbil from Mosul. Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East nations joined the coalition. In March, Iraqi government forces recaptured Tikrit, a strategically important city between Mosul and Baghdad. Coalition air strikes aided the operation. But in May, the militants took control of Ramadi in western Iraq. They then seized Palmyra, a city in Syria known for its ancient ruins. In the year since the insurgents took Mosul, they’ve only grown more powerful, and more threatening than ever.