Mosul Bid to Keep Insurgents at Bay

Moat-like trench around the northern city is intended to keep out the insurgents.

Mosul Bid to Keep Insurgents at Bay

Moat-like trench around the northern city is intended to keep out the insurgents.

New security measures intended to frustrate insurgents’ efforts to create mayhem in the city have failed to win over local residents.

The measures - surrounding Mosul with a moat-like ditch and ordering taxi drivers to take the trunk lids off their vehicles - are aimed to prevent militants bringing in car bombs and other weapons and kidnapping locals.

In recent months, the insurgents have been stepping up their activities in the area, with around 30 car-bomb attacks per week, according to the US Defence Department.

Local officials say the ditch will be 55 km-long and several metres wide, with 12 crossing points manned by Iraqi security forces

Mosul deputy governor Khesrew Goran said he was confident the measures – which have the backing of the American military - will thwart the infiltrators, “It’s a correct plan and it will be successful.”

Iraqi security forces in Mosul collapsed in November 2004 under an insurgent offensive. The local government’s authority was only recently restored, but officials have been struggling to quell the violence.

On June 2, five Iraqis were killed when two motorcycles rigged with bombs exploded here. And on May 23, at least 20 people died when two car bombs blew up.

Brigadier Sa'ed Ahmed al-Juburee, director of media relations at the Mosul police headquarters, said local security forces would “use all means to put at end to terrorism... so the city will become safe and secure”.

While local officials are optimistic about the prospects of the ditch and the trunk-lid ban stopping attacks, Mosul residents say they are less sure.

Engineer Emad Tawfeeq was sceptical that the trench would stop insurgents.

“It's like the old tactic of fortifying cities, but there’s no guarantee that [Mosul] will not be penetrated one way or another,” he said.

Mohammed al-Mosuli, a Mosul resident and sociology professor at Sulaimaniyah University, agreed.

“We are not in the middle-ages and Mosul is not a small castle to be surrounded by a ditch,” he said. “It's a primitive and inappropriate idea."

Others locals are critical of the authorities for not doing enough to inform people about the security measures.

"The local media didn't take any steps to inform people - most have no idea about what’s happening,” said driver Khalid Mohammed Ramadhan, pointing out that he only heard about the new measures because his work will be directly affected.

Many of the city’s taxi drivers have taken a dim view of the trunk-lid ban, saying that it’s unfair to single them out.

“I hope this decision will bring back the safety we lost,” said Arkam Hasan. “But we regard it as a restriction of our personal freedom and bad for the image of our trade.”

Taxi driver Tahseen Mohammed said he and other drivers had complained to their bosses, asking them to make their views known to the governorate.

But their request was turned down because the security measures were deemed to be an American decision that had to be obeyed.

Meanwhile, construction companies have been forced to suspend projects here because of the deteriorating security situation.

The projects - commissioned by international organisations like World Vision and the International Committee of the Red Cross - had boosted reconstruction in Mosul and also provided jobs for residents, said local officials.

Because of the pullout of the construction companies, hundreds of people have lost their jobs.

Deputy Governor Goran said reconstruction has been affected, but he insisted that more projects would be developed in the future.

“The building of many projects have been delayed due to the murder of contractors and threats and attacks against them,” he said.

Construction company employees said insurgents distributed leaflets threatening them if they worked with Americans, although the flyers said projects involving the building of a hospital or health care centre were exempt.

A CEO of one contracting company, who wished to remain anonymous, said after he signed a 70,000 US dollar contract with an international organisation, he and his employees were threatened.

“We found we couldn’t continue so that’s why we shut down the company,” he said.

Other construction companies working in Mosul have shifted their operations to more secure areas.

Fathi Abdullah, chief engineer at the Al-Tamayuz contracting company, said that after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, his company was busy with many projects like building hospitals and schools for international aid organisations. The contracts were worth between 20,000 to 150,000 dollars.

“But after the security situation deteriorated, we were obliged to move to the Kurdistan region because it’s safe and secure,” he said.

Shareef Haza’a and Wa’ad Ibraheem are IWPR trainees in Mosul.

Iraqi Kurdistan
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