Bombers planted among civilians
MOSUL, IRAQ» With the fight for Mosul in its final stage Monday, Islamic State militants sent female suicide bombers hidden among fleeing civilians, while Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition unleashed punishing airstrikes and artillery fire that set dozens of buildings ablaze.
At least one Iraqi soldier was killed and five were wounded in the two separate suicide attacks, the military said. On Sunday, a bomber in women’s clothing killed 14 people at a camp for displaced residents in the province of Anbar, a provincial official said. No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
“These tactics don’t surprise me,” said Sgt. Ahmed Fadil, who patrolled Mosul’s Old City just 50 yards from the front.
The militants “have nowhere to go. They’re trapped,” he said.
Monday’s two suicide bombings against Iraqi soldiers followed three other such attacks by women — some of them teenagers — in the previous two days, said Sgt. Ali Abdullah Hussein.
A soldier displayed the school ID card retrieved from the body of one of the bombers, showing her to be only 15. The photo was of a serious young woman in a white hijab and indicated she had studied in Bangladesh.
“Most of the people who blew themselves up today are women,” said special forces Lt. Col. Salam Hussein. He added that seven women strapped with explosives approached the troops Monday, “but, thank God, our units stopped (them).”
Government troops advancing through the Old City were using rougher tactics to clear the remaining pockets of Islamic State forces.
The tempo of airstrikes was so great Monday that coalition aircraft couldn’t keep up with the requests for air support from Iraqi ground forces. Instead, they sought approval for artillery strikes.