Inside Islamic State tunnels: Iraqi forces examine secret Isis escape routes

Battle for Mosul: The fight against Islamic State explainedNewsweek Europe

Tunnels used by Islamic State (Isis) have been uncovered in recently recaptured villages surrounding Mosul, as Iraqi and Kurdish forces advance towards the last remaining major city in Iraq under IS control.

Iraqi special forces soldiers are seen inside a tunnel used by Islamic State militants in Bazwaia, east of MosulZohra Bensemra/ Reuters

Uncovered by Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service forces in the villages of Bartella and Bazaia, roughly four miles east of Mosul, the tunnels were used as escape routes and meeting points for the jihadists. These network of underpasses suggests the extremists had been increasingly forced to operate below ground by a punishing air campaign and mounting territorial losses.

An Iraqi special forces soldiers is seen inside a tunnel used by Islamic State militants in Bartella east of MosulZohra Bensemra/ Reuters
An Iraqi special forces soldier is seen inside a tunnel used by Islamic State militants in Bazwaia, east of MosulZohra Bensemra/ Reuters
An Iraqi special forces soldier looks inside the entrance of a tunnel used by Islamic State militants inside a restaurant in Bazwaia, east of MosulZohra Bensemra/ Reuters

Islamic State fighters have rigged villages with explosives, mined and booby trapped roads, built oil-filled moats they can set alight, dug tunnels and trenches and have shown every willingness to use Mosul's up to 1.5 million civilians as human shields.

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An Iraqi special forces soldier stands beside a store used by Islamic State militants in Bartella, east of MosulZohra Bensemra/ Reuters
Graffiti reading: 'The Islamic State will remain' is seen inside a store in Bartella, east of MosulZohra Bensemra/ Reuters
An Iraqi special forces soldier checks detonation devices at a factory used by Islamic State militants to manufacture homemade bombs in Bazwaya, east of MosulZohra Bensemra/ Reuters
A man takes a selfie in front of a fire from oil that has been set ablaze in the Qayyarah area, south of MosulYasin Akgul/ AFP
A boy pauses on his bike as he passes an oil field that was set on fire by retreating Isis fighters ahead of the Mosul offensive in QayyarahCarl Court/ Getty Images
Thick black cloud hovers over the desert as an oil field that was set on fire by retreating Isis fighters ahead of the Mosul offensive burns in QayyarahCarl Court/ Getty Images

The Mosul campaign, which aims to crush the Iraqi half of Islamic State's declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, may become the biggest battle yet in the 13 years of turmoil triggered by the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and could require a massive humanitarian relief operation.

An Iraqi soldier stands next to a detained man accused of being an Islamic State fighter at a check point in Qayyara, south of MosulGoran Tomasevic/ Reuters
An Iraqi soldier stands next to detained men accused of being Islamic State fighters at a check point in Qayyara, south of MosulGoran Tomasevic/ Reuters
A member of federal police forces holds an Islamic State flag during an operation against Isis militants, south of MosulReuters
Federal police forces take part in an operation against Islamic State militants, south of MosulReuters

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