In June 2014, when ISIS descended on the city of Mosul in northern Iraq, an anonymous local blogger, operating under the pseudonym Mosul Eye, set to work. He was determined to keep people outside the city informed of what was really going on in a place that was under the rule of the terrorist sect that was ISIS.
Who was he? Nobody knew. A self-described ‘non-journalist’, the blogger began pumping out a litany of information about ISIS’s occupation, their movements, their planned actions and the general horrors of living under their ugly regime. A catalogue of extremist secrets; extremely valuable information for outsiders to glean.
At times masquerading as a crazed jihadi himself, the stealthy blogger got his information straight from the source; chatting to terrorists on the streets, going undercover in ISIS meetings and asking the IS fighters for detailed accounts of their current strategy.
During ISIS’s occupation of Mosul, which ended up lasting three whole years, the blogger relentlessly published all the valuable information he could find. Not only did he keep the world up to date with developments, but some of his work was reportedly used by the Iraqi military to find some of ISIS’s headquarters.
Things were going well; the website’s traffic was through the roof. However, with the popularity came an increasing number of death threats from ISIS. It got so bad that the writer of the blogs fled Iraq just before the city of Mosul was liberated in the summer of this year.
But, there is one final twist in this engrossing tale. Six months after fleeing his home country and five months after the liberation of Mosul, the identity of the Mosul Eye blogger has been revealed: It’s a historian called Omar Mohammed. Now living in Europe, he has opened up about the double life that he was leading.
Reporters Lori Hinnant and Maggie Michael from the Associated Press (AP), broke the story of Mohammed’s identity. ‘Anonymous for more than three years,’ they wrote, ‘Mohammed wandered the streets of occupied Mosul by day, chatting with shopkeepers and Islamic State fighters, visiting friends who worked at the hospital, swapping scraps of information.’
They added: ‘He grew out his hair and his beard and wore the shortened trousers required by the extremists. He forced himself to witness the beheadings and deaths by stoning, so he could hear killers call out the names of the condemned and their supposed crimes.’
‘By night, he was Mosul Eye, and from his darkened room he told the world what was happening. If caught, he knew he would be killed.’
The story also revealed the effect that living a secret life had on Mohammed: ‘Over three years, his double life grew too heavy to bear. His secrets consumed him, sapping the energy he needed to work on his doctoral dissertation and to help Mosul rebuild. In face-to-face conversations with AP reporters over the course of two months, he agonised over how to end the anonymity.’
After revealing himself as one of the main sources of ISIS news, he told AP what it was like to come clean and finally be honest. ‘I am not a spy or a journalist,’ he said. ‘Now I feel free.’
We guess the only question left is: When is this becoming a Hollywood thriller?