ISIS seems to be relying on a new tactic by using female suicide bombers as Iraqi forces appear on the cusp of full victory in the northern city of Mosul, with at least 15 people killed in the latest assaults across Iraq.
In Mosul’s Old City neighborhood — the scene of ISIS’ last stand, where Iraqi forces are fast closing in on the last remaining pocket of militant-held territory — two women suicide bombers, hiding among a group of fleeing civilians, targeted Iraqi troops on Monday morning, killing one soldier and wounding several others.
And at a camp for displaced people known as “kilo 60” in Iraq’s western Anbar province, a suicide bomber dressed as a veiled woman killed 14 on Sunday evening, a provincial official said.
After days of fierce battles, the territory held by the militants in Mosul is rapidly shrinking, with the terrorist group now controlling just over 1 square kilometer in all.
ISIS’ capital in Syria, Raqqa, is also isolated from the rest of the territory under its control across the border.
Using women as suicide bombers is apparently the latest tactic by the militants, Sgt. Ali Abdullah Hussein told The Associated Press as he returned from the front line, his troops carrying the body of their slain comrade wrapped in a blanket.
“They appeared from the basement (of a building) and they blew themselves up,” Hussein said of the two women bombers.
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.
ISIS overran Mosul in a matter of days more than three years ago. The US-backed offensive to retake the city was launched last October while the operation to retake the Old City began in mid-June.
After a dawn push last Thursday, Iraqi forces 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 ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed the organization’s so-called “caliphate” in July 2014.