Women used as sui­cide bombers in Mo­sul

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG ANA

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.

PIC­TURE: AP

Iraqi civil­ians flee through a de­stroyed al­ley as Iraqi Spe­cial Forces con­tinue their ad­vance against Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in Mo­sul this week.

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