Numerous Isis militants are reportedly trying to escape from western Mosul in Iraq by hiding among civilians as Iraqi forces continue their advance into the terrorists' stronghold, Iraqi intelligence officers said. Government forces already have the eastern half of the embattled city under their control.
With Iraqi forces expected to intensify their onslaught in west Mosul in the coming days, authorities are trying to move civilians out of the battleground to prevent loss of innocent lives.
However, reports suggest that those who provided non-combative support to the militants in Mosul were found to be taking advantage of the mass movement to escape the city.
According to an intelligence officer, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, said that on the first day of the mass displacement of residents in Mosul on Sunday (26 February), he found seven suspected Isis fighters among the fleeing crowd. Reuters correspondents also stated that they had seen four more people detained the following day.
Iraqi security forces conduct thorough screenings of civilian batches moving out of war-torn areas, which they said is effective in nabbing terror suspects. They keep some local Mosul residents – referred to as "sources" – to help them identify militants from among the civilians. The military, however, did not provide any numbers with regards to militants found fleeing as residents.
Meanwhile, the intelligence officer said that he had learned to pinpoint Islamists by studying their behaviour. "You can tell because they are afraid. Those who are not Daesh are also afraid but it's different from the fear of those who are with Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.
"We have a mechanism. We have names and sources but even so we don't know all of them. But there are people who cooperate; most of them are cooperative.
"When you ask who among you is with Daesh, there are people who will point them out and say they did such and such. Like these guys, this morning I brought them one and asked if they knew him. Two of them got up and said he is Daesh," the officer said of a screening process held on Wednesday (1 March).