An Iraqi intelligence officer working in the U.S.-backed offensive in Mosul reported that officers are finding Islamic State members hidden among refugees fleeing the city.
While increasing numbers of Mosul residents retreat from fighting between insurgents and Iraqi military forces seeking to recapture the city, security units have been transporting civilians to government-run camps and are identifying ISIS infiltrators.
The offensive has been active for just over a week and an estimated 14,000 residents have left the city, with expectations that up to 400,000 more might follow.
Reuters reports that an intelligence officer, who wished to remain anonymous, claimed to have extracted seven suspected ISIS members on Sunday, the first day of the mass exodus from western Mosul. The news agency accounted for four more in detention on Monday.
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“The fighters don’t come out,” he said, adding that those ISIS loyalists who were in less public, mainly non-combatant roles were more likely to try to escape among hordes of fleeing residents.
Security forces employ trusted Mosul residents to help them identify suspects, and officials are also checking identifications against a computer database. The Iraqi military is confident in the effectiveness of the screening process.
“We have a mechanism. We have names and sources but even so, we don’t know all of them. But there are people who cooperate; most of them are cooperative,” the officer said.
A U.S. intelligence official who requested anonymity confirmed that some ISIS fighters had escaped Mosul as well as the Syrian city of Raqqa during the chaos of combat, but U.S.-backed forces’ encirclement of both cities had reduced the risk of militants escaping and perpetrating attacks elsewhere.
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ISIS Issues Threat to All Who Are Jewish