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Trench Shields Shiite Iraqi Province ...
By mushtaq mohammed
27 Mar 2015

Karabala, Iraq
March 27, 2015

A trench is being dug on the border of the southern Shiite-majority Iraqi province of Karbala with the provinces of al-Anbar and Babel. The ditch, which extends for 50km, is 6m deep and 10m wide and is guarded by surveillance towers and checkpoints manned by Iraqi government forces and a Shiite militia known as the Al-Abbas Combat Division.

Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, the commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade in the Iraqi army, said in an interview that this trench aims to keep ISIS fighters from entering Karbala from al-Anbar province. Silawi denied that this obstacle was conceived to separate Sunni and Shiite populations.

Another interviewed officer denied claims made by Sunni politicians that the aim of the trench was to annex territory to the province Karbala. The city of Karbala hosts the tomb of Imam Hussein, one of the holiest shrines for Shiite Muslims.


Wide of soldiers standing next to surveillance tower
Wide of trench
Various of soldiers guarding trench
Wide of Iraqi army Humvee and soldier
Wide of soldiers running on sand barrier
Interview with Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade
Wide of soldiers next to sand barricade
Various of soldier manning machinegun behind sand barricade
Various of soldiers guarding trench
Various of soldiers and military vehicles next to sand barricade
Interview with Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade
Various of soldiers and military vehicles
Wide of pickup truck moving and banner with Shiite religious symbols
Wide of tents and Iraqi flags
Interview with Major Jaber Ahmed, Infantry Platoon Commander
Various of trench
Various of soldier in surveillance tower looking through binoculars
Wide of soldiers and vehicles at checkpoint. Phrase written with bricks in Arabic reads: “Long live Iraq.”
Wide of solider next to Iraqi flag
Wide of Iraqi soldier on guard

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade
01:18 – 02:50

“The trench extends for about 50km along the administrative border between the provinces of Babel and Karbala. No, it is not about Sunni or Shiite provinces. This trench is an obstacle set up for military purposes. It has nothing to do with whether an area is Sunni or Shiite. This is a desert. These lands do not belong to any individual; they belong to the Ministry of Agriculture.

"The trench will be guarded by platoons from the 33rd Infantry Brigade in addition to groups from the Popular Mobilization [Shiite militia umbrella], especially the Al-Abbas Combat Division. The trench was dug by the province of the holy Karbala in agreement with the local governments of neighboring provinces. This system involves surveillance towers and cameras, as well as a dirt barrier that is 5m high and 6m wide.

"This trench was dug in the desert – an unpopulated area. There are no agricultural areas or shepherds. This is a desert, barren land. The aim of digging the trench is to stop the terrorist ISIS organization from training in this area.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Colonel Hassan al-Silawi, Commander of the 33rd Infantry Brigade
04:00- 04:48

"The soldiers are not scared because it is their duty to fight. We are terrorizing ISIS; ISIS is scared of us. The proof is that we liberated areas with the support of the Popular Mobilizations forces. This is a border of separation in desert areas neighboring the province of Karbala. The trench goes along the administrative border of three regions – Babel, Ramadi and the province of Karbala.

"There is no transgression. There is an agreement among local governments. This [trench] serves all the provinces. The public interest comes ahead of everything, especially when it comes to security. There are no lands that belong to the state or agricultural land, either. It is a desert area."

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, Man) Major Jaber Ahmed, Infantry Platoon Commander
05:12 – 05:51

“Thanks be to God, so far no security breach has been recorded in this district. Thanks be to God, it was because of the efforts of the head of operations, the commander of the 33rd Brigade."

Interviewer: "How would describe your morale?"

"Our morale is very high, thanks to [the military commanders]. God willing, the operations to liberate Falluja, which is close to us, as well as Tikrit, have started. God willing, operations will also start within Al-Anbar. God willing, the operations will keep going. We are guarding the northern district of the province of Karbala. Our morale is high, thanks be to God.”

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Leftovers of ISIS: Inside a Liberated...
By mushtaq mohammed
15 Mar 2015

March 15, 2014
Tikrit, Iraq

Shiite militia officer, Abu Ismail, gives a tour of al-Alam, a suburb of Tikrit which until recently had been under the control of ISIS. Ismail shows ISIS graffiti on homes, a handmade explosive device hidden in an electronic tablet and detonators, as well as pro-ISIS leaflets giving instructions on the best way to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s caliphate.

In coordination with Shiite militias, the Iraqi Army was able to drive ISIS out of the area of al-Alam as part of their offensive to retake Tikrit.

Shot list/ transcription:

Medium of fighter spraying “Ali al-Akbar Brigade” on wall

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, man) Abu Ismail, Popular Mobilization officer
01:18 – 03:50

“This house, which we will raid, belongs to an officer in the Salahuddin Police. ISIS members took it by force. They closed it and left it behind. We begin with this writing [Reads in Arabic: “The State”] which ISIS fighters wrote. Please come with me so that I would show you the other writings.
[Lettering in Arabic reads: “Estates of the Islamic State”] ISIS members wrote this slogan on all the houses that they have taken over. They consider themselves to be the rightful owners of any house whose original owner supported the [Iraqi] government, is a Shiite, or does not follow their teachings. They confiscate the properties, cattle, land, women and anything that belongs to such a person. ‘The State of Islam shall remain.’ This is proof that they were present in this house. Now, God willing, we will open the house and see what is inside. These are detonators. This is a mobile tablet, commonly used but people for communication or guidance. This is the [explosive] dough. They have booby-trapped it. As soon as a call is made to this tablet, while the battery is in place, it will explode. These are the detonators, used to set off explosive devices. This house is in al-Dour housing complex. May the owner rest in peace. What is his name?
What is his name, Abu Hussein?
Regarding this issue…
Interviewer: Will this explode?
The battery is in place, however, the device should be charged to enable them to contact this device from another one. As soon a call is established between another device and this one, a detonation will be triggered. This little piece of dough, as we understood from explosives experts, can kill from four to ten people – this little piece of dough. If it was compressed, the explosion would be stronger.”

03:59 – 04:21
As soon as we entered the house – we still have not gone in deeply yet – we found military equipment and outfits [that were] used by ISIS members. They confiscated these outfits from police and army headquarters.

04:22 – 05:57
Close-up of ISIS pamphlet in Arabic, reads: “Extend your hands to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi.”

SOUNDBITE (Arabic, man) Abu Ismail, Popular Mobilization officer

04:27 –
These fliers were given out to people in various regions. This is about people pledging allegiance the damned Baghdadi. “Extend your hands to pledge allegiance to Baghdadi.” There is a drawing of hands, one belonging to Baghdadi and the other to the person pledging allegiance.
It was published by the hypocrite – a so-called muhajhid, but he is neither a sheikh nor a mujahid – Turki al-Ben Ali, Abi Sufian al-Salami.
Even the printing house –if the camera can show this clearly… this was published in the “Islamic State’s Printing Establishment.” Also, here is written “Al-Himma Bookstore.” These are the [visible] titles.
Here are written the conditions that the person pledging allegiance should follow. They start with specific points or titles that have nothing to do with Islam. They are far from any Islamic value.
We shall continue to search.
This flag… they have used as slogan these sacred words in every house, alley, village, region, or government office. They have nothing to do with this slogan.”

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Clashes on Tikrit Frontline
Al-Alam, Tikrit
By mushtaq mohammed
15 Mar 2015

March 15, 2015
Al-Alam,Tikrit Reqion, Iraq

Footage from the frontline at al-Alam, near Tirkit, where Shiite fighters from the Ali al-Akbar brigade, part of the Popular Mobilization umbrella group, engage in a battle with ISIS, merely 300m away.

This video was shot by a fighter from the group using a GoPro camera attached to his body.

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Funeral of Badr Organization Military...
By mushtaq mohammed
13 Mar 2015

March 12, 2015
Karbala, Iraq

Thousands of Iraqi Shiites attended the funeral of Saad Tamimi, the military commander of the Badr Organization in Tikrit who was killed in battle on Wednesday 11 March. The Badr Organization is arguably the most powerful of the Shiite militias who make up the Hashid Shaabi or "Popular Mobilization" umbrella group of militias.

Also in attendance was the Badr military leader in Karbala, Major General Hamed Saheb, also known as Abu Mustapha al-Karbalai'. General Saheb accused Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of working to help the United States, referred to as "the devil", carry out its agenda in Iraq.

The mourners carried the coffin of Tamimi to holy Shiite shrines in Karbala while chanting Shiite slogans.

Analysts and U.S. officials have repeatedly stated their concerns about the sectarianism that is (re)emerging in Iraq. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he is "very concerned" about reports that Iran and Shiite militias are leading the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and exacerbating sectarian strife in that nation.

In a speech to Congress on 3 March, Carter said: "Sectarianism is what brought us to the point where we are, and so I do look at it with concern. We are watching it very closely."


SOUNDBITE: Major General Hamed Saheb, Military Commander of Badr Organization in Karbala (Arabic, Man)
02:59 – 04:51
“I offer condolences to myself, my brothers the mujahideen, and the people of Karbala on the occasion of the martyrdom of this hero from the military wing of Badr Organization. He participated in several operations. Eight days prior to his death, he took part with me in a very difficult operation, during which he marched ahead of my mujahideen brethren, calling: “Martyrdom! Martyrdom!” The day before yesterday, he was martyred in the Salahuddin district while he tried to sweep the area after it was liberated from the criminal gangs, which had entered the land of Imam Hussein, the Commander of the Believers. I congratulate you as well as ourselves for offering an elite of [martyrs] for the sake of the Master of Martyrs [Imam] Abi Abdullah al-Hussein, in defense of the land of Iraq and the holy shrines. We say, from the city of Imam Hussein, that neither ISIS, nor the malicious House of Saud, foundling Qatar, or damned Turkey will be able to achieve this scheme in Iraq, the scheme of America, the Great Satan. This is thanks to this safety valve [POINTING TO PORTRAIT OF AYATOLLAH SISTANI] who issued such a great fatwa, and these men who obeyed the fatwa.
God willing, in the next few hours, the good news of the full liberation of Salahuddin province will be announced.
Yes, we offered martyrs and casualties but, relatively to previous operations, their numbers are small.”

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Iraqi Troops Seize ISIS Media Center ...
By mushtaq mohammed
12 Mar 2015

March 11, 2015
Tikrit, Iraq

Backed by Shiite volunteers, Iraqi Army soldiers enter the town of al-Dour, an ISIS stronghold 20km south of central Tikrit, and the same place Saddam Hussein was found hiding in a hole.

The video shows the soldiers driving through the town in tanks and armored vehicles. It also shows an ISIS "Media Access Point" or media outlet where they used to distribute Islamist books, prints and CDs. Inside the shop, soldiers found leftover books and CDs as well as numerous explosives left by the jihadists.

There is also shots of buildings with ISIS graffiti sprayed on the walls and reading "Property of the Caliphate".

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Iraqi Army and Shiite Militia Advance...
By mushtaq mohammed
10 Mar 2015

March 9, 2015
Tikrit, Iraq

Iraqi Army soldiers and Shiite fighters that pledge allegiance to Ali al-Akbar, a Shiite militia fighting under the umbrella of The Iraqi Popular Army (Hashid Shaabi), advance on al-Dour, a village in southern Tikrit.

Video shows them at very close range using tanks, heavy artillery and automatic weapons to fire upon ISIS positions as they move north towards central Tikrit. In the latter half of the video, various militiamen describe their morale as optimal; their motivations as just; and their ability to wipe out ISIS in the name of Hussein, the Prophet and the latter’s family as very strong.

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Shiite Militias Advance on ISIS Outsi...
By mushtaq mohammed
08 Mar 2015

March 8, 2015
Tikrit, Iraq

Footage from a camera mounted on the helmet of a fighter from the Ali-al-Akbar Shiite militia (part of the larger al-Hashd al-Shaabi umbrella of Shiite militias) shows fighters running through trenches and dirt roads on the outskirts of Al-Awja, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, in southern Tikrit. ISIS fighters were forced to retreat following the clashes.

The Iraqi Army, in coordination with al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias, launched an offensive to retake the city of Tikrit, which became an ISIS stronghold in June of 2014. Around 30,000 troops have been deployed and have been retaking villages from the jihadists en route to Tikrit over the last month.