Mission Mosul: Local allies in ‘SAS-aided’ mission to retake city start killing each other

© Stefan Wermuth
The Shia and Kurdish forces that make up an alliance in Iraq, which also reportedly has British SAS special forces embedded, are reportedly locked in a deadly internal feud.

Only days ago reports surfaced of British Special Air Service troopers supporting the rag-tag but thousands strong alliance formed to retake Iraq’s second city of Mosul from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Iraqi Shia militiamen previously combined in 2014 to retake territory from the jihadist group.

It is now reported that the two forces in the 70,000 strong US-led force upon which Iraq’s future may hinge, are locked in a murderous feud.

The Medium news network’s conflict website War is Boring reported on Thursday that fighting broke out on April 23 in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, when Shia fighters lobbed a grenade into the house of a Peshmerga commander – personnel from both sides died in the ensuing fight.

While a fragile truce has now been established, the confrontation appears to be jeopardizing the already treacherous task of retaking the city.

On Tuesday, the military channel Forces TV quoted a senior source claiming that “our people [UK Special Forces] have been at the forefront in dismantling IS across northern Iraq and Syria and are already preparing the ground for the battle to recapture Mosul."

The challenging nature of the different groups within the alliance raises the specter of the killings of UK troops by members of Afghan security forces during the war in Helmand province between 2006 and 2014 – these came to be referred to as “green on blue” or “insider” attacks.

During the latter stages of combat operations, the training process UK troops undertook in Helmand was punctuated by supposedly loyal Afghan security personnel turning on the coalition troops assigned to mentor them.

Eighteen UK soldiers are reported to have died in Afghanistan in such attacks.