From A Mountain, Kurds Keep Watch On ISIS In Mosul : Parallels From a nearby mountain, Kurdish forces can see look down into the strategic city. An Iraqi-led assault on the city is planned, but for now the frustrated men hold their territory and train.
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From A Mountain, Kurds Keep Watch On ISIS In Mosul

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From A Mountain, Kurds Keep Watch On ISIS In Mosul

From A Mountain, Kurds Keep Watch On ISIS In Mosul

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Sometime in April or May, the U.S. plans to help Iraqi troops retake the city of Mosul. That's according to statements yesterday from the U.S. military. The self-proclaimed Islamic State, or ISIS, captured Mosul last June. Iraqi Kurds will be key in the fight to free Mosul. They're the closest U.S. allies in Iraq and their forces hold the turf just north of the city. They're so close they can look down on the city's outskirts and watch ISIS operate. NPR's Ari Shapiro was with Kurdish fighters recently. And a warning note on this report - it contains graphic descriptions of violence.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO CONVERSATION)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Some guys are making plans to meet up over walkie-talkies. My interpreter translates.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO CONVERSATION)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken).

SHAPIRO: What are they saying?

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: He say, Mr. Abdullah, are you coming now to us? Let's - come to us to have a lunch.

SHAPIRO: We're listening to ISIS making lunch plans right now.

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: Yeah.

SHAPIRO: Kurdish fighters stand all day at the top of this mountain behind banks of sandbags, listening to their enemy in the city of Mosul down below. We can see the ISIS flags flying over the outskirts of the town. Sometimes the chatter is not so mundane.

(SOUNDBITE OF RADIO CONVERSATION)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: He say there is now the airplane. Did you hear the sound?

SHAPIRO: Yeah

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: Haidar - when he say Haidar he mean the airplane, like, it's like...

SHAPIRO: It's a code word. Haidar is the code word for the...

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: For the airplane.

SHAPIRO: They say Haidar is coming your way, and sure enough, we hear a low buzzing sound, though, there's no airstrike this time. The Kurds gave us permission to broadcast this information. They say sometimes at night they listen to the men down below order specific women to be sent to them by name. These women and girls have been taken captive from villages that ISIS conquered. It drives the Kurdish fighters crazy not to be able to do anything. Hussein Ali has been on top of this mountain since August and he's desperate to go fight.

HUSSEIN ALI: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: He say yes, sure, and this is my village. I want to control my village. I don't want to stay here.

SHAPIRO: Last week, ISIS sent a few suicide bombers climbing up the hill. Hussein Ali says he spotted them through the binoculars. One of the fighters posted this video to Facebook. A few missed shots and then...

(SOUNDBITE OF EXPLOSION)

SHAPIRO: A direct hit, a ball of flame and cheers. A fighter named Mohammed Sadiq Aza says it happens pretty regularly.

MOHAMMED SADIQ AZA: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED INTERPRETER: Yeah, he say if you just go down here you will see the hand and the head of the ISIS. We kill them all the time here.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in foreign language).

SHAPIRO: An assault on Mosul is still likely months away, but preparations are intensifying. Just behind the front line, a little ways down the mountain, this new training camp has volunteer reservists learning to march and shoot. They're both Kurds and Arabs from Mosul.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in foreign language).

SHAPIRO: They chant ISIS, ISIS we are coming, from every street to every house. As they march, they wear balaclavas covering their faces. That's because most of them have relatives in Mosul. They will fight with their identities concealed so ISIS doesn't kill their families. It's difficult to get any news from Mosul, but this military trainer says he manages to chat with his brother on Facebook every few days. His brother's family spends all day in the house.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: No schools, no markets, nothing - bad life.

SHAPIRO: His brother urges come back to Mosul and attack ISIS. The trainer promises we will. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Northern Iraq.

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