Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

The caliphate’s cubs: ‘Islamic State’ and child soldiers

Judit Neurink writes for Deutsche Welle:

His fear is almost palpable. The 15-year old who was caught wearing an explosives belt outside a Shiite mosque in Iraq's oil city of Kirkuk is crying silently while two policemen hold his arms out wide to prevent him from yet igniting the explosives.

In August, IS sent him to Kirkuk, just like another boy of his age, who did manage to blow himself up minutes earlier in another Shiite mosque.

The group has lately stepped up the use of children as suicide bombers. Days after the boy in Kirkuk was caught, four teenagers carried out an attack in the Iraqi Shiite town of Karbala. In March another boy did the same at a youth football match in southern Iraq.

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An oil field in northern Iraq has been burning nonstop for four months

Laris Karklis writes for The Washington Post:

Satellite imagery of the Qayyarah oil field reveals the damage Islamic State militants can inflict even when they are on the run.

On June 18, Iraqi security forces began an offensive to retake Qayyarah, which the Islamic State seized in 2014. The militants used an oil field complex and refinery near the city, 40 miles south of Mosul, to finance its operations. Based on satellite imagery, the Islamic State was apparently aware an attack was imminent because smoke first began emanating from a small number of wells on June 16.

On July 9, Iraqi forces secured a large air base nine miles west of Qayyarah. By then, more than 10 well heads were ablaze. The air base will serve as a logistics and supply hub for an eventual offensive to push the Islamic State out of Mosul. On Aug. 25, Iraqi forces declared that Qayyarah had been retaken from the Islamic State. By the end of the summer, more than 15 wells were on fire. In September, close to 600 U.S. troops arrived at the air base to assist Iraqi forces with the planned offensive. While the Islamic State is no longer in control of Qayyarah, it still occasionally attacks the facility.

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ISIS’ retreat to Mosul brings surrounding villages back to life, reveals extensive tunnel system

Hollie McKay writes for Fox News:

As the noose tightens around the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, there is a flurry of activity in the city’s surrounding villages, where the black-clad jihadist army’s retreat has revealed destruction, booby traps and underground warrens where terrorists cowered under coalition airstrikes. recently toured the various frontline villages of Mosul, where around 30 families of the minority Shabak and Kakayi people have returned four months after their homes were liberated from ISIS. Like other villages on the Nineveh Plains just miles from the city’s center, the longtime inhabitants are trickling back in to rebuild their homelands – and lives. Even though that means their families – including their young children – are living on the frontlines amid one of the most highly-anticipated battles to recapture a city from jihadist hands.

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In the shadow of Isis: a photo essay on northern Iraq

Souvid Datta reports for The Guardian:

As an offensive to take back Mosul from Isis is set to begin, photojournalist Souvid Datta visits the front line, spending time with Yazidi female fighters, refugees at the Debaga camp, and communities trying to get on with life.

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As Iraqi city of Mosul braces for battle with ISIS, its people recall gentler times

Moni Basu writes for CNN:

In his studio apartment in Chicago, Mahmoud Saeed is surrounded by a city gripped by gun violence. But it is the violence tied to his hometown in Iraq that saturates his soul with sadness.

Saeed, a celebrated Iraqi author of 30 novels and short stories, monitors the news of an imminent and decisive battle to drive ISIS from Mosul, the militant group's last bastion of power in Iraq. An unlikely alliance of troops is converging on the rugged plains of Nineveh, and the first salvos could come as early as next week.

The importance of the looming military operation has been highlighted in the halls of power from Washington to Baghdad, but Saeed is concerned that few discussions are centered on the plight of his fellow Moslawis.

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Exclusive: Islamic State crushes rebellion plot in Mosul as army closes in

Ahmed Rasheed reports for Reuters:

Islamic State has crushed a rebellion plot in Mosul, led by one of the group's commanders who aimed to switch sides and help deliver the caliphate's Iraqi capital to government forces, residents and Iraqi security officials said.

Islamic State (IS) executed 58 people suspected of taking part in the plot after it was uncovered last week. Residents, who spoke to Reuters from some of the few locations in the city that have phone service, said the plotters were killed by drowning and their bodies were buried in a mass grave in a wasteland on the outskirts of the city.

Among them was a local aide of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who led the plotters, according to matching accounts given by five residents, by Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on IS affairs that advises the government in Baghdad and by colonel Ahmed al-Taie, from Mosul's Nineveh province Operation Command's military intelligence.

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As Iraqi Forces Prepare To Attack Mosul, A Civilian Exodus Could Follow

Alice Fordham writes for NPR:

For more than two years, the Islamic State has held Mosul, in northern Iraq, in a stranglehold. People who have fled say the militants terrorize people, conduct public executions, recruit children as fighters, forbid communication with the outside world — all in the name of enforcing a brutal regime they call Islamic.

That could now be set to change. Iraq's security forces and their allies are readying for an assault on the city. The roads to the city are defended and ISIS is expected to fight fiercely, but security officials insist they will take Mosul back soon.

At the same time, fears are growing that people still in the city — maybe more than a million residents — will leave in a mass displacement or be caught up in the fighting with no way out.

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Turkey determined to play role in planned Mosul offensive: Erdogan

Daren Butler and Ayla Jean Yackley report for Reuters:

Turkey is determined to take part in a planned operation by coalition forces to oust Islamic State from the Iraqi city of Mosul and will implement a "plan B" if it is not involved, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.

In a speech in the city of Konya, Erdogan said Turkey would make its desire to take part in the operation known to its international partners in the coming days. He did not offer details on what an alternative strategy would entail.

Ankara has been locked in a fierce row with Baghdad over who should take part in the U.S.-backed assault on Mosul, which is expected to begin this month.

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‘Last battle’ against Isis in Iraq: forces mass for Mosul assault

Martin Chulov writes for The Guardian:

Iraqi and Kurdish forces are finalising plans to attack the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in Iraq, the northern city of Mosul, which after a month-long buildup is now largely surrounded by a 60,000-strong force.

The assault could begin as early as this weekend and is the most critical challenge yet to Isis’s two-year-old “caliphate”, which had shredded state authority in the region’s heartland, led to a mass exodus of refugees, attempted a genocide of minorities and led to grave doubts over Iraq’s viability.

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Turkey’s Demands Complicate Battle Plan to Retake Mosul From Islamic State

Tamer El-Ghobashy and Dion Nissenbaum write for The Wall Street Journal:

Plans for a pivotal offensive to uproot Islamic State from the Iraqi city of Mosul are running into unexpected complications from Turkey, which is pressing the U.S. and Iraq to incorporate its allies into the battle’s fighting force.

Ankara’s demands to include a Turkish-trained Sunni force are threatening to fracture an uneasy alliance of diverse Iraqi fighters in what could be a turning point in the war against Islamic State.

The Turkish pressure on Baghdad has triggered new demands from influential, rival Shiite militias, which are rethinking their agreement to play a more limited role in the fight for Mosul, according to Iraqi officials—throwing a wrench into delicate negotiations over the battle plan.

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