Female Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in Iraq are using their children as human shields in a last ditch defense of Mosul as the U.S.-led coalition has all but liberated the city.
“The women are fighting with their children right beside them,” Lt. Gen. Sami al-Aridi told the Associated Press. “It’s making us hesitant to use air strikes, to advance. If it weren’t for this we could be finished in just a few hours.”
“For a child, even if his father is a criminal, what has he done?” Lt Gen al-Aridi said. “At the same time, my men are still taking casualties. We had 14 wounded today already.”
On Friday, the Times of London reported that the organization had deployed dozens of jihadi brides to conduct a series of suicide attacks, with at least 20 detonations since Sunday. One of those attacks included an individual dressed as a veiled woman who killed 14 people and wounded 13 others by infiltrating a refugee camp in northern Iraq.
American Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq and Syria, previously attributed the war of attrition in Mosul on ISIS’s willingness to use children as human shields and booby traps.
“West Mosul is arguably the most complex and dangerous combat urban environment that any force has seen in decades,” declared the American colonel.
A report by the United Nations in April found that nearly 400,000 civilians had been displaced by the conflict, although 94,500 of them have been able to return to their homes as parts of the city have been liberated.
On Tuesday, Haider al-Abadi congratulated the coalition on its “big victory” in Mosul as troops closed in on fully liberating the city.
“Praise be to God, we managed to liberate (Mosul) and proved the others were wrong, the people of Mosul supported and stood with our security forces against terrorism,” al-Abadi said.
However, celebrations proved premature on Friday, as ISIS launched a wave of suicide counterattacks in Mosul’s Old City, although Brig. Gen Shakir Rodhan of the army’s 16th Division later dismissed the incident as “a normal thing in any battle.”