Women used as suicide bombers in Mosul
AS THE battle to retake the Old City of west Mosul from Islamic State militants enters its final phase, the extremists are using women as suicide bombers.
Four female suicide bombers, some of them teenagers, blew themselves up on Monday as Iraqi security forces forced terrified children to strip off their clothes in case they too had been used by the insurgents as human explosives.
Seven other women bearing explosives attempted to approach troops but were intercepted, the BBC reported yesterday.
Iraqi commanders are now ordering women to remove their veils while men were being told to remove their shirts before approaching soldiers, in an effort to prevent more such attacks.
Fierce clashes are continuing as thousands of Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen, assisted by US-led coalition warplanes and military advisers, attempt to free west Mosul from the insurgents.
A major offensive to free east Mosul began in October, last year and by January that part of the city was under the control of Iraqi security forces.
In February, Iraqi forces launched the fight to retake west Mosul, but warned that this fight would involve a lot more bloodshed and would be a lot harder due to the narrow, winding alley-ways in the Old City of west Mosul where thousands of civilians are crammed.
“The fighting is becoming harder every day because of the nature of the Old City,” said Lieutenant-General Abdulghani Al Assadi, a commander of Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service.
Currently, the last stronghold of the Islamic State is the Old City, which has been blasted by air strikes and artillery salvos with local commanders expecting to take full control within five days.
Brigadier-General Yahya Rasool told state TV that “victory is very near”, while another commander has estimated that “the battle will end in five days to a week”.
According to Iraqi security force estimates there are about 300 militants left in Mosul, compared with nearly 6 000 at the start of the offensive.
Meanwhile, the UN estimates that about 100 000 civilians might still remain trapped as the Islamic State increasingly uses desperate civilians as human shields.
Aid workers said hundreds of civilians emerged from the rubble of the besieged neighbourhood on Monday as Iraqi Special Forces went door-to-door clearing homes.
Many who remained in the militant-controlled areas of the city are injured and malnourished, the aid workers added.
In addition to the Islamic State now resorting to the use of female suicide bombers due to the cultural sensitivity of women being stripsearched, earlier reports stated that civilians were also being forced to remain in their houses after doors to their homes had been welded shut.
But Mosul’s civilians are also paying the price at the hands of Iraq security forces.
The recent gains by the Iraqi military have been largely a result of the continued air strikes despite the cost to civilians and warnings from human rights groups about the dangers of using heavy munitions in the dense, highly populated area.
Iraqi civilians flee through a destroyed alley as Iraqi Special Forces continue their advance against Islamic State militants in Mosul this week.