Two female suicide bombers, hiding among a group of fleeing civilians, targeted Iraqi troops in Mosul yesterday morning, killing one soldier and wounding several others, an Iraqi officer said.
It was the latest counter-attack by the Islamic State (IS) group as Iraqi forces close in on the last pocket of militant-held territory in the Old City neighborhood — the scene of the last stand by IS militants.
The territory held by the militants in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, is rapidly shrinking, with IS militants now controlling a little more than 1km2 in all.
Using women as suicide bombers was apparently the latest tactic by the militants, Iraqi Army Sergeant Ali Abdullah Hussein told reporters.
“They appeared from the basement [of a building] and they blew themselves up,” Hussein said as he returned from the scene, his troops carrying the body of their slain comrade wrapped in a blanket.
The attack happened in the area of the destroyed al-Nuri Mosque, which was the focus of the Iraqi forces’ push last week.
Over the past three days, Hussein said at least four such attacks have targeted Iraqi forces as hundreds of Mosul’s civilians are fleeing the battles in the Old City’s congested streets.
After the explosion yesterday, another group of civilians appeared on the main road, prompting the Iraqi soldiers to immediately draw their weapons.
They then yelled to the group of mostly women and children to back away and take another route out.
The IS overran Mosul in a matter of days more than three years ago. The US-backed operation to retake the city was launched in October last year and has lasted nearly nine months, although Iraqi political and military officials had vowed that victory would be declared by the end of last year.
Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake the Old City in the middle of last month and on Thursday last week, they retook the area around the al-Nuri Mosque, which the militants had blown up just a few days earlier.
The 12th-century mosque is hugely symbolic — it was from a pulpit of this mosque that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the IS caliphate in July 2014.
After Iraqi forces retook the mosque, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared an end to the IS’ so-called caliphate.
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