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Iraqi Forces Expected To Need Weeks To Free Mosul From ISIS Control


Let's get a glimpse of Iraq's effort to retake the city of Mosul. Iraqi forces are pressing against the Islamic State there. Reporter Fazel Hawramy has been on the frontlines with various Iraqi forces. And he joined us earlier via Skype. He was just watching Kurdish forces seize villages outside the city proper.

FAZEL HAWRAMY: If the last four days have been any indication for how ISIS is going to fight in Mosul, it appears that they're not going to, you know, last long. And the Peshmerga and the Iraqi security forces may be able to take Mosul even quicker than most analysts and most generals expect.

INSKEEP: Is there fear that the resistance by ISIS will become stronger as Iraqi forces move into the city of Mosul itself, where you would have urban combat and many, many obstacles?

HAWRAMY: I mean, that's a possibility. But in the surrounding of Mosul, there hasn't been much resistance. The Iraqis and the Kurds have managed to take village after village. And - I mean, this morning, I was really surprised because when they started the operation, literally within like an hour, they took the first village without any resistance. Then the second village, there was a bit of resistance there. But it wasn't that much. So it seems ISIS has pulled out its militants towards Mosul. So one explanation could be that they want to resist in Mosul, and they want to fight really hard the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga forces. Or they're basically - they just know that they're going to be defeated, and they're pulling out of these areas north and east of Mosul.

INSKEEP: As the Iraqi forces have moved forward, have you seen any civilians in these village areas or fleeing the area?

HAWRAMY: Well, yesterday, I went to the south of Mosul, to a village called Ibran Kali (ph). And there, there was the Iraqi army in the village. ISIS fled about three days earlier. And we saw about 100 civilians in the village. I spoke to several of them, and they were complaining about lack of food, lack of medicine. But they were happy that the Iraqi army treated them with respect, and they treated them well. And then you could see in the village, the remnants of ISIS and what they've done - the tunnels, all these punishments for various so-called, like, crimes such as homosexual relations, such as adultery, such as drinking alcohol.

INSKEEP: What do you mean that you could see the punishments? What did you see?

HAWRAMY: Well, basically, we went into a school and they put up a flyer on the wall. And it says the Islamic State. And it says, like - it broke down various offenses, such as adultery, drinking alcohol, homosexual relations. And underneath, it said, like, what punishment should be meted out to this or that offense - mainly lashing people, whipping people and, specifically for homosexual relations, it was death.

INSKEEP: And did you see very many civilians in these areas?

HAWRAMY: There were around hundred civilians, mainly young men, children. And I sat down with some of them. We spoke about life there before ISIS and after ISIS. And they complained about how brutal this organization was. And they seem to be happy that the Iraqi army has taken back the village. But I think there is a concern by some of the residents in this area that if there is no reinforcement by the Iraqi army and the ISIS counterattacks, which they did about two days ago and they took back two villages, the lives of these civilians may be put at risk.

INSKEEP: Well, Fazel Hawramy, thanks very much for the update. Hopefully, we can check in with you again as this offensive progresses.

HAWRAMY: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Fazel Hawramy is a correspondent joining us via Skype from northern Iraq. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.