As Iraqi forces continue to sweep the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) out of Mosul, the group has stepped up its use of tactics that have little regard for civilian lives, local officials tell Diyaruna.
Some of the group's car bombings and suicide attacks have been indiscriminate, they said, while others deliberately punish the residents of liberated neighbourhoods for the warm welcome they extended to the liberating forces.
East Mosul resident Dargham Amer, 29, told Diyaruna he was injured when an ISIS car bomb exploded near a popular restaurant in al-Zuhour neighbourhood on February 10th.
"The terrorists were trying to spoil our joy at the liberation of our area," he said, adding that he has since recovered from the wounds he sustained in the attack.
The bombings hit everybody, he said, as the group's main goal appears to be causing the loss of as many innocent lives as possible.
"Their crimes are a badge of shame for them," he said.
With ISIS losing more and more ground in western Mosul, the pace of the group's attacks with car bombs and suicide attackers has substantially increased in the last few weeks, Ninawa operations commander Maj. Gen. Najm Eddin al-Jubury told Diyaruna on Monday (May 8th).
"Suicide bombers are the group's last resort which he uses in his battles inside cities," he said.
On April 18th, 16 civilians, including five women and four children, were killed when a car driven by an ISIS suicide bomber blew up as the group retreated from al-Thawra neighbourhood, which Iraqi forces had recaptured.
The blast also destroyed two residential houses and damaged four civilian cars.
New tactics to counter ISIS attacks
Suicide bombers are "still the enemy’s most effective weapon, even after losing many of its combat abilities and having its areas of control diminished", said security expert and former Interior Ministry official Jassim Hanoun.
The group's indiscriminate attacks with car bombs and heavy weapons have killed thousands of civilians in Mosul, he told Diyaruna.
The tactic is intended "to embarrass our forces as the world watches on, and to complicate the battleground", he said.
As the group is clearly prepared to inflict catastrophic harm on the approximately 300,000 civilians still stranded in Mosul, any military move necessitates extreme caution, Hanoun said.
By taking cover behind the local population, ISIS has sought to hold off the intervention of the air force and artillery, he added.
But Iraqi forces have been employing new tactics that have been effective in battling ISIS, he said, which include encircling and infiltrating its areas in order to hunt down its fighters.
"A high-precision unmanned aircraft system also has been introduced into the battle to monitor their movements and thwart their attacks on military units and civilians," he said.
"Civilians are a strategic target of the group," Ninawa provincial council member Abdul Rahman al-Wakka told Diyaruna. "It is deliberately and indiscriminately attacking them to search for a lifeline for its trapped elements."
The new military plan is focused on educating citizens on how to avoid these attacks and keep as far away as possible from sources of danger, and on increasing the number of safe escape routes, al-Wakka said.
It also emphasises the use of light weapons and precision-guided munitions, he said.
'No cards left to play'
Despite the challenges they face, Iraqi forces have managed to liberate populated, important neighbourhoods such as al-Tanak, said Iraqi MP Majed al-Gharawi, who serves on the parliamentary security and defence committee.
This is "a good sign, despite the obstacles", he told Diyaruna, adding that "ISIS has been doing unthinkable things in order to avoid defeat".
Car bombs detonated near civilian houses and the targeting of groups of civilians fleeing the battle "are one of its dirty, lowest defensive tactics", he said.
These indicate, however, that ISIS has "no cards left to play", al-Gharawi said.
"Our troops are surrounding and attacking them from all sides, and the residents are co-operating and reporting important information on their headquarters and car-bomb making workshops," he said.
"We are making progress, and victory is imminent."