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Analysis: Iraqi Police Aiding Militants In Mosul Insurgency

Smoke rises from a building in Mosul The growing insurgency in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul took a turn in recent days as many police in the city reportedly deserted their positions and took up arms alongside militants. Sources told RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq that multinational forces arrested General Muhammad Khayri al-Birhawi, the director-general of Mosul police, accusing him of cooperating with terrorists in the city, RFI reported on 15 November.

Two days earlier, Deputy Governor Khisro Goran accused police of colluding with insurgents: "We are convinced, because we have evidence...that many policemen in Mosul are loyal to the former regime and sympathetic to the terrorists. Their loyalty is not for the new Iraqi regime," Kurdistan Satellite Television reported on 13 November. Goran added that the police directorate in the city was advised several months ago to purge the police organization of Saddam Hussein loyalists, but the directorate failed to do so. Reuters reported on 15 November that scores of police defected in last week's fighting and joined insurgents. "The terrorists were not able to occupy the offices of the national parties, centers of the National Guard or the Installations Protection Force. They were only able to seize police stations, which is a clear indication that there is collusion between the police [and militants] and that many policemen are sympathetic to the former regime, which is why they handed over the stations very easily," he said. "In many of the [police] stations, there was no shooting or fighting, they were just handed over to the terrorists."

Reports indicate that fighting remains sporadic but U.S., Kurdish, and Iraqi National Guard personnel have secured at least half of the city, which is divided by the Tigris River. Al-Jazeera reported on 12 November that gunmen could be seen in the city urging residents to return to their jobs without fear. A statement was also issued by the "Higher Commission of the Mujahedin Brigades" calling on residents to return to work, adding that the mujahedin would protect state institutions and banks in the city, and that there was no reason for citizens to close their shops. The Kurdish daily "Khabat" reported on 11 November that Kurdish homes were repeatedly attacked in the city. The daily said that "Arab democrats" were also being targeted. The Kurdish parliament claimed in a 6 November statement condemning the violence in Mosul that Kurds wearing traditional dress were being targeted in a number of northern Iraqi towns. "These malicious and criminal [acts] aim at planting the seeds of sedition and contention between the Kurds and Arabs," the statement said.
"It is not logical that a very secure town like Mosul of more than 2 million people can be victimized by gangs of not more than 1,000 people."

RFI reported that peshmerga forces have taken up positions in the city in recent days. They launched operations in the Kurdish-populated Al-Jihad neighborhood of the city on 15 November. Peshmerga forces also defended the Kurdistan Democratic Party office against an attack on 15 November, killing four insurgents. Two militants were also killed outside the Ibn Sina Hospital after peshmerga forces caught them trying to plant explosives on a parked car belonging to a peshmerga. Gunfire can still be heard in some areas of the city as multinational forces work to secure the area, RFI reported. Eyewitnesses said that many terrorists were killed but many others escaped to villages south of the city.

An RFI correspondent in Baghdad interviewed interim National Assembly member Yonadam Kanna about the situation in Mosul on 15 November. Kanna pointed out that the city historically has not faced ethnic or religious divisions, despite the fact that it is inhabited by Sunnis, Kurds, and Turkomans. "It is not logical that a very secure town like Mosul of more than 2 million people can be victimized by gangs of not more than 1,000 people," he said. Kanna said the Interior Ministry and Iraqi security forces should take the responsibility to solve this "abnormal problem." He contended that gangs in the city want to cause ethnic divisions. He said gangs were also becoming a problem in villages south of Mosul.

Al-Sharqiyah television cited U.S. Brigadier General Carter Ham as saying on 14 November that militants in the city are not believed to be those who fled Al-Fallujah in recent days. RFI reported on 28 October that at least a dozen militant groups are present in the city (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 5 November 2004).