Multiple Iraqi and Kurdish media sources have claimed that some Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Mosul, Iraq, have contracted the deadly Ebola virus, Mashable reports.
The Iraqi outlets reportedly claimed that Ebola had started to spread in a Mosul hospital. The city, known as ISIS’s most important strategic stronghold in Iraq, has been under the control of the Islamic State since June.
Christy Feig, the World Health Organization (WHO) director of communications, told Mashable, “We have no official notification from the Iraqi government that it is Ebola.” She said that WHO had reached out to authorities and asked if they needed help investigating the matter.
Kurdish media network Xendan reported that ISIS jihadists’ symptoms were similar to those shown by someone who has contracted Ebola. However, it is highly uncertain whether Mosul health authorities have the means, tools, or skill-set necessary to test for Ebola, given the current hostile environment in the area.
In late December, the Islamic State reportedly executed doctors who refused to treat their militant jihadis. The Washington Post said of the ongoing situation in Mosul, “Services are collapsing, prices are soaring, and medicines are scarce in towns and cities across the ‘caliphate’ proclaimed in Iraq and Syria by ISIS.”
Iraq’s pro-government Al Sabaah (The Morning) daily newspaper reported that Ebola made its way into Mosul through Africa-based Islamist “terrorists” who then linked up with ISIS. Mashable notes, however, that the majority of ISIS recruits in Africa have come from countries that have not reported any Ebola cases, such as Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, Libya, and others.
Meanwhile, Mosul’s liberation remains a strategic priority for Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition. Mosul has been described as ISIS’s de facto capital in Iraq. While under ISIS control, many of the city’s one million residents have lived under fear of severe punishment or execution should they not comply with the jihadists’ mandates.