MOSUL and BAGHDAD, Iraq — On a quiet morning in late February, a convoy of black SUVs and pickups tore through the outskirts of east Mosul, at times nudging 75 mph on the dusty roads. Packed inside, balaclava-wearing gunmen pulled nervously at slim cigarettes while martial music blasted over the radio.
Three males, bound with strips of cloth, crouched in the back of one truck, their sweatshirts pulled over their heads to cover their faces. The youngest looked to be about 15. All three had been detained minutes earlier on suspicion of affiliation with the Islamic State, which had withdrawn to the west of Mosul in late January but left behind a network of sleeper cells.
The convoy of the National Security Service (NSS), Iraq’s intelligence branch, continued to a second neighborhood. The NSS members ran down alleys to kick in doors at suspect houses. This time, though, a second convoy of tan Humvees stenciled with black Babylon lions pulled up and angry soldiers from the Iraqi Army’s 16th Division poured out, weapons in hand.
“What are you doing? You didn’t coordinate with us,” an irate 16th Division officer shouted, gesticulating at the NSS men.
“Hey! We’re just doing our job!” an NSS member replied.
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