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FRIEND OR FOE? SOMETIMES HARD TO TELL IN WAR FOR MOSUL

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) — He claimed to be a native of Mosul and said he had just escaped his embattled neighborhood. When his cell phone chirped cheerfully, he said it was his mother calling and picked up.

But the clean-shaven man seemed to have a Syrian accent, not Iraqi. His conversation with whoever was on the other end of the line was strange at times as he gave details on the situation in the nearby districts. “We’re wearing enough and we have everything we need,” he assured the caller.

Iraqi troops nearby eyed him suspiciously as he spoke to The Associated Press on Nov. 12 just after he showed up with his wife and small daughter among dozens of people fleeing the fighting in Mosul. The troops then took him aside and detained him, believing he was an Islamic State group member.

The man gave his name as Omar Danoun, though it’s not known if that is his real name. His case illustrates the difficulty of knowing friend from foe in a chaotic war. Iraqi forces assaulting the city are on the lookout for IS fighters or members trying to slip out of the city with other residents, whether to escape or to sneak behind the lines to carry out attacks. A strange accent or odd behavior can draw suspicion. – READ MORE