Deadly Mosul: ‘Like Baghdad About 18 Months Ago’

oif_nov11_2004_1st_bde_mosul_32.jpgIraq’s insurgents are down but not out. As security improves in many parts of the country, embattled extremists have fled to Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, straddled by mountains near the Syrian border. Two G.I.s were killed there just today, and six more were wounded. What was once a vibrant and ethnically diverse city is now “like Baghdad about 18 months ago,” according to one U.S. soldier.

For a year now, the Iraqi Army has led operations to retake Mosul, including armored assaults. But there hasn’t been much progress. Mosul’s civilian population — especially its small Christian community — is the real victim, as I reported for World Politics Review.

“There were also lots of raids going on in their communities,” [analyst Pary] Karadaghi says of Mosul’s Christians. “When the Iraqi government is looking for terrorist groups, they come to those neighborhoods. Their houses get searched. And once they get searched, terrorists see them as collaborators. So they are hit twice.”

Amid gun battles, bombings, death threats and abductions, thousands of Christians have fled Mosul to seek refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. Those Christians who remain in Mosul have begun arming themselves:

Now, instead of relying on Baghdad to protect them, some Christian neighborhoods are taking security into their own hands, forming unofficial militias that set up roadblocks to screen for weapons and strangers. Some of the Christian militias are getting support from the Kurdish Regional Government and its security forces, according to Karadaghi.

But Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government never have gotten along very well. Baghdad might just see the KRG’s support for Christian militias as a threat to their own power and control even as they struggle to take extremists’ last major bastion