Mosul trader: ISIS fighters ‘went after expensive foreign brands’

The trader on ISIS militants: ‘They were the ones with money. They bought perfumes for themselves and for their wives’

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Privileged ISIS militants, who enjoyed residing in some looted villas in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul they occupied since June 2014, were indulging of “high-end habits,” a perfume trader now residing in a liberated area told Reuters.

“They went for the expensive foreign brands... Some had four wives,” Hamza Samih said.

Samih’s business became dependent on ISIS militants after the fighters issued two orders - get rid of the perfumes and colorful bras they said were unholy, and set up separate doors for men and women.

ISIS militants’ draconian edicts almost put him out of business by forcing women, his main customers, to cover themselves in black, not use perfume in public and stay indoors.

But later, Samih’s business became dependent on the militants.

“They were the ones with money. They bought perfumes for themselves and for their wives,” the 23-year-old storekeeper said of ISIS forces who were driven out of his street on Sunday by Iraqi special forces.

The militants overran Mosul two years ago, imposing their ultra-hardline interpretation of Sunni Islam over Mosul.

They are now being driven out in the biggest military operation in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. Troops have pushed them out of around a quarter of the city in an advance now in its seventh week.

While most of the population struggled to get by, residents say the militants enjoyed a privileged existence.

Some drove expensive cars and stayed in looted luxury villas, according to Samih’s neighbors and relatives - voicing a common refrain among residents in Mosul districts recaptured from ISIS.

The army hopes people like Samih will reopen businesses quickly to bring life back to normal in recaptured areas of Mosul, a message delivered in person on Monday by the commander of the army’s counter terrorism unit, who came to Samih’s Aden district escorted by seven Humvees carrying masked gunners.

Back at the perfume shop, Samih said it was too soon to resume trading. “I’m not ready to open the shop yet. We need stability,” he said, looking exhausted.

(With Reuters)

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