October 3, 2016
Under the Islamic State group, Mosul has been transformed into an urban minefield littered with explosives and traps meant to bait troops and technicians into setting them off. Once Iraqi forces retake Mosul from the militants that have held it since 2014, they will have to contend with the city itself.
The US-led coalition and Iraqi military are hurtling toward a final assault on Mosul, which Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said will occur by the end of the year. But NATO is concerned that, when the dust settles, the civilian population may return to an incredibly dangerous area saturated with improvised explosive devices (IED).
“If you look at Daesh’s tactics, the way they defend towns is with 50 to 200 snipers and ten thousands of IEDs and booby traps,” a NATO official said, using the Arabic alternative for the Islamic State group. “Everything is booby trapped. Children’s toys, kitchen pots, the refrigerator, dead bodies, everything.”
This month NATO began its second counter-IED course aimed at teaching Iraqi Army and Ministry of Interior officers how to disrupt explosive devices in an urban, humanitarian context. The treaty organization invited Defense News to Jordan to watch exercises and speak with some of the incoming students.
“In a street about 100 meters long, there will be more than 30 IEDS planted there,” said one new student, a 29-year-old Ministry of Interior officer from Basra province who has been working as a counter-IED expert since 2012. The Iraqi officers interviewed for this article requested not to be named, citing danger to themselves and their families.