Isis waiting with bombs, mustard gas to hold Mosul

Isis is digging in for a battle that could last months to keep control of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, by extensively rigging the streets with bombs, preparing scores of suicide bombers, and filling trenches around key access points with burning oil.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on state TV in the early hours of Monday that the long-awaited operation to retake the city had begun.

Several sources said residents have started an armed resistance themselves, setting fire to Isis vehicles and stealing weapons, although initial reports could not be verified.

Civilians inside Mosul reported in recent days that Isis has prepared booby traps under bridges or hidden inside jackhammered holes on main roads.

The US Defence Department warned last month that Isis could also use its rudimentary attemps to manufacture mustard gas on both residents and the advancing army, providing 50,000 gas masks to Iraqi troops as a precaution.

Several areas have been blocked off with cement blast walls to funnel citizens into neighbourhoods where they can be used as human shields, text messages and photos sent to Reuters showed, and Isis has created an extensive network of underground tunnels for shielding and transporting both equipment and fighters. 

The tactics are similar to how Isis has defended other cities, but Mosul will be the biggest battle the group has ever faced. Losing control of the city will ultimately spell their defeat in Iraq.

The UN is worried that fighting could displace up to 700,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance in the first few days, and that agencies on the ground will not be able to cope.

The city - home to two million people - fell under Isis' control in 2014 when the group rapidly expanded its territory across Iraq to form its so-called caliphate.

The Iraqi army, with help from US advisors, has been gearing up to retake Mosul in the last few months, making steady gains on nearby villages and establishing supply lines to and from the US base in Qayyarah, 80 kilometres (50 miles) away.

Militants in the city have also stepped up surveillance and sniper presence on rooftops at night to quash any signs of rebellion by residents.

One civilian said via Whatsapp that children as young as eight, sometimes armed with pistols and knives, have been deployed to monitor and inform on the population. The children then recruit other children for the same task.

"[Isis] are desperate and they could force even children to fight once government troops are at the doors of Mosul," they wrote.

On Friday, it emerged that 58 people accused of organising an armed resistance plot were executed by drowning and their bodies dumped in a mass grave, Iraqi officials and residents said.

Signs of growing dissent have emerged in recent months, including anti-Isis graffiti and reports that residents were risking their lives to provide forces outside the city with intelligence useful for the army offensive.

Mr al-Abadi has previously urged civilians to stand up to and kill militants if possible.

Topics:  iraq isis islamic state

Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

DPI puts Dolphin Marine Magic 'all but out of business'

A battle over seal enclosures at Dolphin Marine Magic threatens the facility's ability to stay open, Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser warns.

DPI crackdown a threat to Dolphin Marine Magic, warns MP

10 years on: 'My whole life fell apart'

The memorial along Broken Head Road near Suffolk Park for the Southern Cross LADS.

We talk to the families about ongoing grief

Swimming spots that could cause vomiting, diarrhoea, fever

Swimmers at the mouth of the Evans River.

Health risks include vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, fevers

Local Partners

'Everyone knew her and everyone loved her'

THE parents of crash victim Amanda Nash have remembered the 35-year-old as a "shining star” and a loving mother, wife and daughter.

Barry Gibb is coming to Bluesfest 2017

FANS: Barry Gibb talks to a fan next to a cardboard cutout of his young self.

Aged 70, Gibb has re-launched his solo music career with a new album

Declan Kelly and the Rising Sun to shine bright at festival

Declan Kelly & The Rising Sun is one of the headlining acts at this year's festival.

Main stage set to pump with radiant reggae and dub vibes

Extra time to get your Dolphin Awards nominations in

Dolphin Award trophy.

Open to all unsigned musicians in the (02) 66 phone area code

Azealia Banks won't take legal action against Russell Crowe

Rapper Azealia Banks

Rapper drops legal action against Russell Crowe

Brad Pitt meets with his kids amid divorce proceedings

Actor Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt has met up with his oldest son Maddox

Pictures of Taylor Swift allegedly being groped are sealed

They could "complicate jury selection".

Bruce Springsteen finds therapy useful

Singer Bruce Springsteen

Singer encourages others to seek help

Kerry Washington wants one more child

Kerry Washington recently gave birth to her second child

Kerry has only just become a new mum again

TRAVEL: Musicals light up Sydney

David Campbell performs in Dream Lover.

We take a trip through one of Sydney's finer scenes

Hit songwriter's Noosa mansion on market

SPECIAL PLACE: The Cintamani estate is going to tender, marketed by Tom Offermann Real Estate.

Is this Queensland's best property?

Kiwi siblings snap up Dotcom mansion for $32.5m

The new toy company owners of the Coatesville mansion want replace any controversy with positivity and fun. Photo / Barfoot and Thompson

The trio paid $32.5 million for the property in June

New $200 million development will create 580 jobs

Cassie And Josh with baby Alfie and daughter Andee. They have bought at new Lennox Head development Epiq.

Majority of new positions will be given to Northern Rivers locals

Cherrabah's mega resort plans axed

PLANS for a massive development at Cherrabah have been scrapped.

Dusit Thani finance crisis 'just a small hiccup'

ON TRACK: Springfield Land Chairman, Maha Sinnathamby, Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, Developer Richard Turner and Springfield Land Deputy Chairman, Bob Sharpless, at the recent resort sod turning ceremony.

Property developer says project remains firmly on track

Heavyweight enters real estate market

Des Besanko principal and director of Raine and Horne Springfield.

Major rebranding which has seen two big name brands merge