Like children left to build a fort in the woods, Islamic State militants turned individual neighbourhoods into urban fortresses in the Iraqi town of Bashiqa, Sky News reports.
During the two years Bashiqa was in the hands of IS, militants adapted kitchens, hallways and bedrooms for combat purposes. In the food pantry of one battered-looking dwelling, there were boxes of tea biscuits on the floor and racks for guns and rocket launchers above. Numerous rooms were full of dirt, excavated from a tunnel complex down below.
It was in a bookcase in one of these dank, subterranean chambers that we found a stack of official papers, notebooks, code books, religious texts and personal diaries that gave an insight into the regulations that bound the men who were stationed there. In one extraordinary document, dated 14 July 2016, we saw how IS leaders motivated and rewarded individual fighters.
Large sums were given for the destruction of enemy aircraft. Those firing rockets or mortars carrying chemical weapons were compensated for each individual munition and fighters faced bureaucracy when making their claims. Interestingly, IS seemed to rate the death of an enemy soldier more highly than the propaganda value of capturing one alive.
The rewards list was presented in bullet points:
:: Plane, helicopter or drone – seven golden dinars to the unit or individual which shoots it down
:: Tank – seven golden dinars
:: Armoured vehicle – four golden dinars
:: Other vehicles – two golden dinars
:: Snipers – one dinar if it is filmed or half a dinar with a witness
:: Hit any military target – one silver dirham on condition of footage or a witness
:: Using chemical weapons through mortars and rockets – 10 silver dirhams per rocket/mortar
:: Killing an apostate or “unbelieving” soldier – 10 silver dirhams (killing in any way except by sniper)
:: Capturing an apostate or “unbelieving” solider – one silver dirham
To claim rewards, fighters were asked to apply to unit leaders “with the details of what he achieved with filmed evidence or witnesses”. Unit commanders investigated the claims and, if approved, applicants were given receipts.
In another document dated this year, we saw a diktat from the “religious office of the army” on the subject of intimate feelings for pre-pubescent boys. It read: “The pre-pubescent boy with a beautiful face and a good looking body is a temptation among Muslims and if the devil enters Muslims through this door – God protect us.
“As it is said, with a maid there is only one devil – with a young boy there are two devils and as you know, God punished Sodom. “That is why we order the following: to shave the heads of pre-pubescent boys – those who have no beards yet. The Prophet says anyone who looks at a young boy with desire will be locked in hell for 40 years by God.
“All the Muslim scholars prohibit looking at young boys and you should not stay in the house with a young boy.” However, we know from documents in the underground chamber that at least one young man was staying in the complex we visited.
In a cream-coloured “inventory” written by the man who probably led the unit, the names and personal details of each member were listed with their military equipment. For example: Mohammad Tariq, known as Abu Omar, married, birthdate 2000, weapon Kalashnikov, nine cartridges.
Mohammad Tariq is young – just 16 years old, according to the record – but that is entirely typical of IS. Youngsters are thought to be more obedient and less fearful in combat. Hundreds of boys and young men from the Yazidi religious minority were captured and declared “jihadis” after being sent to IS “re-education camps”.
We found a black book with the details of six individual men at ‘Position 100’ – the designation we believe was given to the neighbourhood we visited. Details of the armoury at ‘Position 100’ were interesting – it seems every single bullet was accounted for:
:: Two PKC machine guns – nine containers plus 180 bullets
:: Kalashnikovs – 80 containers plus 450 bullets
:: Two RPG launchers – 12 rockets plus five extras
We also discovered two pocket-sized, laminated code books with numbers given for specific words or military situations:
:: 750 – Dead Islamic fighter
:: 760 – Wounded Islamic fighter
:: 770 – Under bombardment
:: 780 – Incoming bombardment
:: 810 – Advancing
:: 820 – Withdraw
The card states: “Punishment lasting three days for not using codes.” Inside the chamber there were plenty of other materials, including a wealth of religious texts. One document told readers that “victory is one hour of patience away”.
Peshmerga soldiers who accompanied us to the hideout said they shot five militants there a few days ago. In reality, victory seems an increasingly unlikely prospect for the IS “caliphate” in Iraq.