Iraqi police officers recently arrested a half dozen Sunni Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadists as they attempted to escape the besieged Iraqi city of Fallujah incognito, dressed up as women to hide among fleeing civilians, reports Shiite Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency (FNA).
The incident in Fallujah is not the first time ISIS fighters have been caught cross-dressing to mix in with civilians fleeing territory they are about to lose.
In fact, “a large number” of ISIS jihadists were already busted earlier this month disguised in women’s attire while trying to escape their Iraqi stronghold Fallujah, which is being contested by U.S.-backed Iraqi troops, reports the Times of Israel, citing FNA.
Similarly, a number of ISIS militants in Syria who were facing heavy Russian airstrikes fled to Turkey in October 2015 by shaving off their beards in addition to donning women’s robes and veils to escape unnoticed.
Now, FNA reports that various Arabic-language media outlets quoted an unnamed Iraqi security source as saying that on Monday “the Iraqi police have taken 6 ISIL terrorists who were wearing women’s clothes and trying to flee Fallujah city.”
Women’s clothing has also been found in an ISIS base, noted the source, adding, “They used women’s dresses and cosmetic make-ups to flee Fallujah city.”
Hadi Rzayej, Anbar’s police chief, said last week that 546 “suspected terrorists” had been detained among the crowds of fleeing civilians, noting that many of them were found in possession of fraudulent identification cards.
“The ISIL terrorists have completely lost their morale and they have disguised in order not to be identified by the Iraqi security forces,” declared Jabar al-Mamouri, an Iraqi commander of volunteer forces, according to a local media report issued Monday.
In an effort to prevent jihadists from slipping out among them, Iraqi forces have been detaining all military-aged men for questioning as they flee Sunni-majority Fallujah, since the U.S.-backed offensive to retake the city from the Islamic State, also known as IS, began in late May.
Last week, one senior Iraqi commander told the Associated Press (AP) on condition of anonymity that “support for the IS group among civilians [in Fallujah] is more widespread, and that once government forces move in, it will be hard to tell friend from foe.”
More than 82,000 residents have fled Fallujah to overwhelmed camps operated by the Iraqi government and 25,000 more are likely in the process of evacuating, the United Nations recently estimated.
In late 2014, FNA reported that fighters from the Islamic State, also known as IS, were caught “in women dresses” as they “hid in civilians’ cars to escape from [Iraq’s] Salahuddin province in disguise after sustaining a heavy defeat in the war with Iraq’s army and volunteer forces.”