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Isis' tactics in mosul
not just a militia, but a 'brand' with a message

Special Correspondent
The Sunni Muslim extremist organisation, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is proving itself adept at more than just military tactics: The group uses both traditional and modern methods to communicate its…
24.06.2014  |  Mosul
The distinctive ISIS flag is part of the extremist organisation's
The distinctive ISIS flag is part of the extremist organisation's "branding".


As has been observed before, the Sunni Muslim extremist group that took over two of Iraq's biggest cities earlier this month are far from a disorganised hoard of bloodthirsty terrorists. And it is not just the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's military tacticians showing sophistication; the way in which they communicate with the rest of the world is also evolving. A good example of this is the way in which the group, also known as ISIS, have sent their messages into Mosul, the northern city that was first to fall to them two weeks ago.

These methods range from the sophisticated to the traditional.

On June 9, a day before Mosul was taken over by ISIS and their allies, Younis al-Noun awoke to the sound of an unusual call coming from loudspeakers at the local mosque. “Come to jihad,” the call went. “Come to jihad.”

A few minutes later fighting began. If, as some have said, the smaller ISIS force was joined by sleeper cells inside the city, then it is likely that this call alerted them to the upcoming battle.

After the Iraqi army had fled and ISIS had secured their grip on the city, the group issued a new city charter which it then distributed to clerics at local mosques. The clerics were ordered to read the statement out after Friday prayers. And two weeks later it seems the extremist group is still using local mosques to get their message across.

One of the city's clerics, who wished to be known only as Abu Hassan, says that last week one of the group's leaders came to the mosque to urge him to tell local people to be patient and to give the extremist group a chance to prove their sincerity.

“I think he came because there's been a big deterioration in city services and in fact, their complete absence in some parts of the city,” Abu Hassan explained to NIQASH. “Employees are not getting their salaries and city businesses are slowing down.”

ISIS have also proved themselves adept at branding inside Mosul: Mostly this is through the use of banners and their distinctive black flag. The flags are made of black cloth and religious slogans are printed upon them – members of ISIS say that the Prophet Mohammed carried similar flags when he fought.

“This flag will strike terror in the hearts of our enemies and you will soon see it flying across the whole country,” one of ISIS' fighters said, as he held the flag aloft in front of a large crowd of locals one day recently.

Many of the ISIS flags and banners that seem to filling Mosul at the moment are being printed at the University printing shops.

Parades by fighters with their weapons and vehicles are another excellent opportunity for ISIS to impress upon the local people how powerful they are. Several large parades have been seen as warnings to the Iraqi government. Today, just two hours before writing this article, this journalist saw another large parade of military vehicles and fighters, come down Mosul's streets. It is believed that this parade was meant to send a warning message to another militia in the city that had not properly declared allegiance to ISIS.

Looking at the fighters in Mosul, you might think that all they were good at was fighting. However some of them are also very good at conducting digital warfare. As soon as the attack on Mosul began, there were fighters on Twitter, updating the action as it happened.

One in particular, the Ninawa Wilaya (or the Ninawa town council that was set up by ISIS) was particularly effective, publishing photos and video clips from the battlefield.

But of course, there isn't any Internet in Mosul at the moment. So one of the developments considered most dangerous by locals is ISIS' capture of media businesses in Mosul and Tikrit. It now controls five satellite television stations - Sama Al Mosul, Ninawa Al Ghad , Al Mosuliyah, Sama Salahaddin and the Salahaddin Channel. ISIS also runs five local radio stations and a number of printers. None of these have been damaged in fighting and they are ready for use.

Iraqi Kurdish news agency Bas News recently reported that one ISIS Facebook page had announced that they would be broadcasting using Al Mosuliyah facilities and that their new channel would be named Al Furqan.

“ISIS asked me to return to work and they also told me to ask my other colleagues to come back too,” says one journalist in Mosul, who adds that the extremist group want to begin broadcasting as soon as they can. However, the journalist says, he told the ISIS representatives that they should postpone broadcasting for the time being because a number of the station's staff had left Mosul and there were not enough staff.

Despite all of this, the one thing that ISIS still lacks in Mosul is an official spokesperson. Some think this is due to the organisation's security and desire for secrecy. But as the group's media offensive continues, others suspect that this may soon change.