International desk – The US broadcaster CNN has reported that the so-called caliphate announced by the radical militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria have been falling apart after months of fights by allied forces against them.
The broadcaster released a video from Raqqa, the heart of the IS fighters, showing that the life in the area has becoming rather normal and civilians were out in the streets.
The CNN reports based on the video that at first, the video shows a seemingly normal urban life — men and women shopping in the streets, with steady traffic passing by them.
A closer look shows this is a city under threat — tarpaulins along streets hide the movements of fighters from surveillance drones and sandbags outside buildings might offer some protection from a blast from the sky or ground.
For this is not any normal city — this is Raqqa, the heart of ISIS’s attempt to build its own state or caliphate. And it is crumbling, added the broadcaster.
Just the fact that activists filmed the secret footage obtained exclusively by CNN is perhaps the most telling sign that the self-proclaimed capital of a reign of terror is coming to an end.
For years, anyone caught with such material would have been killed by ISIS. Phones and cameras were banned, confiscated and so-called perpetrators punished in barbaric ways.
Now it seems there is less fear, and the opponents are able to do what was once unthinkable — to show us life in Raqqa as US-backed and other Syrian forces encircle the city in the long attempt to end ISIS.
And the many scenes that we see show a ruling group as they are — often confused, sometimes vain. We also see civilians becoming more brave, even brazen as they challenge their oppressors. This is a city that can smell its liberation.
One video features two Russian-speaking militants. It’s hard, given heavy accents and poor audio, to know exactly what they’re talking about, but it seems to revolve around lost radios and airstrikes.
Abu Huriri says to his friend: “We have a problem at the moment. I forgot even the radios. I said to Khalid, do we have them? I thought he returned them to the base. I said: let’s go there.. [inaudible] .
“But apparently they’ve already attacked and the battle’s been going for a day already.”
The other man, with an accent that suggests he may be from Russia’s North Caucasus region, adds: “The planes have been striking the whole day, chasing [them].”
Another scene shows Belgian fighter, Abu Aisha, choosing between camouflage and khaki slacks.
A third features Abu Lukhman, an Egyptian, and his colleagues from the military police, looking in vain for a Tunisian, Abu Mariam.
The snapshots are mundane, but fascinating: we are used to seeing ISIS as monsters, not as boring humans.
The clips show markets packed with goods and streets full of people.
The bright colors of fruits and vegetable stand out in the grainy video. For now, it seems families have been spared some of the horrors seen in other besieged ISIS-controlled cities like Mosul. One shop even seems to offer an exchange for US dollars.
Everywhere are piles of sandbags that can offer protection from airstrikes as well as restricting movements.
The civilians we see are sure to be trapped here, behind these enemy lines, perhaps held as human shields if street battles become part of the fight as they have in Mosul.
The signs of the approaching fight are clear. The red and yellow tarps above the once open market hide what’s going on from eyes in the skies, according to the broadcaster.