News / Middle East

    IS Opens New Supply Route Between Syria and Iraq

    FILE - This file picture released on July 13, 2015 by the Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, shows an Islamic State militant sniper in position during a battle against Syrian government forces, in Deir el-Zour province, Syria.
    FILE - This file picture released on July 13, 2015 by the Rased News Network, a Facebook page affiliated with Islamic State militants, shows an Islamic State militant sniper in position during a battle against Syrian government forces, in Deir el-Zour province, Syria.
    Rikar Hussein

    Islamic State (IS) militants have been using a new route between Syria and Iraq to ferry supplies since Iraqi Kurdish forces cut off one of IS' crucial links in northern Iraq last month.

    The Kurdish forces, known as the Peshmerga and supported by American airstrikes, recaptured the town of Sinjar, cutting off a crucial IS supply route known as Highway 47 between Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria.

    IS has created informal routes through the flat desert of southern Mosul where it uses civilian cars to transfer its fighters and supplies across the border between Iraq and Syria, Kurdish commanders and Iraqi officials told VOA.

    VOA Kurdish correspondent Kawa Omar reports that IS militants are using civilian vehicles to move supplies between Raqqa and Mosul.  The informal route starts from the small town of Ba’aj, south of Mosul, and continues to the town of Qirwan close to the border with Syria.  

    A former member of the Iraqi parliament, Qasim Hussein Barjis, said that this new route has become an important lifeline to IS as it has been suffering casualties and damage to its infrastructure from an increase in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.  IS has also faced Russian and Syrian regime strikes.

    “The route has been paved by IS from Raqqa to Mosul with the exception of Qirwan town where it has to move across a sandy flat desert,” Barjis told VOA.
    The Sinjar operation was an important move toward limiting Islamic State's movement across the border between Iraq and Syria, Kurdish commanders and U.S. officials say.

    The new IS route is costlier and more time-consuming compared to Highway 47, but the ease of movement in the flat desert of southern Mosul makes it an attractive alternative to the fighters.  

    “Unlike Sinjar area, southern Mosul is easy for movement because it is sandy and flat,” said Seydo Husein, a council member in Nineveh, one of Iraq’s 19 governorates.  

    “We had information that [IS] was working on creating that route before the liberation of Sinjar,” Khalaf al-Adidi, another member of Nineveh Governorate, told VOA.

    An Iraqi news website, Niqash, reported that the route is also being used by civilians who trade between Raqqa and Mosul.

    “People of the area have opened up small shops on the way and sell water, food, and fuel,” according to a civilian truck driver who was quoted on the website.   

    Anticipating that future fighting may cut off supply lines, the Islamic State group had already reduced the movement of its trucks through Highway 47 before the Sinjar operation started, according to the VOA correspondent in the area.

    IS captured the town of mostly ethnic Yazidis from Iraqi government forces last year.  The IS attack on the Yazidi minority led to the first of more than 5,000 U.S. airstrikes against IS.

    “We had information that [IS] was working on the construction of a route in south Mosul eight months before the Sinjar operation started,” Haider Shasho, a leading Yazidi commander in Sinjar, told VOA.  The Yazidis are a religious and ethnic minority in Iraq and have suffered at the hands of IS since the militants started to gain influence in the Yazidi populated areas.

    Shasho expressed concerns about the free movement of the IS fighters along the route.

    “IS fighters are moving everything through the route from military supplies to food and fuel,” Shasho said.  “I can say that more than 80 percent of the people crossing the Ba’aj border to Syria are [IS] fighters while the rest can be considered civilians empathizing with [IS].”

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Scott Philip
    December 10, 2015 5:22 PM
    Makes me wonder why we aren't doing anything when we have this information.

    by: williweb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
    December 10, 2015 1:17 PM
    Two A-10's on tag-team patrol guided by satellite surveillance could shut down this route completely and permanently and kill anything that moves on it. Any civilians doing trading on this route know from the start that they are supporting IS and thus are legitimate targets of the anti-IS coalition.
    In Response

    by: David Johnson
    December 10, 2015 5:31 PM
    Its hard to do anything when the terrorists are hiding among the civilians. Targeting civilians will only strengthen ISIL.

    by: Anonymous from: US
    December 10, 2015 9:02 AM
    The terrorist threat is becoming worse and worse. We need troops on the ground. period.
    In Response

    by: Steve from: The Great US
    December 10, 2015 12:11 PM
    Unfortunately we are tacitly supporting AQ and ISIS by giving a greenlight to Saudi Arabia and Turkey to do what they please, including logistics and weapons and money that is provided to ISIS and AQ by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. So boots on the ground is a big paradox, on one side we are strengthening the very elements that will be fighting with our boots on the ground on the other side.

    We first need to stop calling Saudi Arabia and Turkey allies, they are not allies and they don't even share the same interest with the US anymore.

    by: Anonymous from: US
    December 10, 2015 8:59 AM
    Huh so Islamic State is freely moving across the borders and none is there to stop them? What a mess!

    by: Anonymous
    December 09, 2015 5:57 PM
    Turkey also sent troops to Mosul to protect ISIS and AQ from any harm. Turkey = ISIS
    In Response

    by: Eric Vincent from: Washington
    December 10, 2015 8:50 AM
    Turkey is not the only one helping ISIS. I just don't see anyone serious about fighting the terrorists anymore.

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