March 6, 2017 - 16:15 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The mouth of the tunnel is hardly visible on a muddy hillside overlooking Mosul, where fighting now rages between Iraqi forces and Islamic State militants, Reuters reports.
In less turbulent times, trains ran through it on their way to or from Mosul, but when the militants overran the area in the summer of 2014, they barricaded both ends, ripped up the tracks and built an assault course inside, on which to train their recruits.
Iraqi forces discovered the underground training camp after regaining control of the hillside last month in the early stages of a campaign to dislodge Islamic State militants from Mosul's western half.
Locals tipped them off about the location of the camp, which reveals the extent of Islamic State’s determination, despite the overwhelming number and firepower of the forces arrayed against it, which are backed by a U.S.-led coalition.
Clambering down a bank of earth that concealed the entrance, two Iraqi soldiers went into the tunnel - about 7 m (yards) high by 5 m (yards) wide, lighting the way with their mobile phones.
They illuminated Islamic State slogans painted along the walls of the tunnel - around half a kilometer (0.3 mile) in length - and a series of obstacles, which one soldier tried out.
"Their training is similar to ours," said Kadhem al-Gharrawi, a member of the Rapid Response Division, an elite Interior Ministry Unit. "It's tough training for special forces."
It is not clear how many recruits passed through the camp or what became of them.
The physical drills complemented the group's ideological training, evidence of which is contained in booklets littering the floor of the tunnel, detailing its uncompromising doctrine.
A leaflet titled "Types of Idolatry", lies beside empty cartons of orange juice drunk by the recruits and packaging of the boots and balaclava headgear they wore.