Foreign fighters for Isis are choosing to stand and fight the Iraqi army in east Mosul, while the group’s local militants are crossing the Tigris river with their families to the more defensible western side of the city, a former jihadi has told The Independent.
In an exclusive interview, the fighter, who calls himself Faraj, described scenes of growing chaos and an apparent breakdown of discipline among Isis forces in Mosul. He said that local fighters seeking to leave the east of the city, which Iraqi forces entered on Tuesday, were being stopped at checkpoints and cross-questioned by Isis security officers, whom he said were mostly Libyans and much feared for inflicting severe punishments. On this occasion, he said that “fighters accompanied by families are being allowed to cross the bridges to the west bank, while individuals are being sent back to the front line”.
Faraj said he had a cousin who left Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria, four months ago and had gone with his family to live in east Mosul. His cousin was not fighting on the front line, but was manning checkpoints and carrying out other activities for Isis. Nevertheless, when the Iraqi army entered Gogjali district on the extreme east side of Mosul, he found himself at the front with 15 other fighters, but they later retreated over one of the five bridges that span the Tigris and took up positions in the Yarmouk neighborhood on the west bank.