Mosul, May 29 (IANS/AKI) As Iraqi forces launched a broad offensive to re-take western and northern areas of Mosul still held by the Islamic State, the jihadist group has begun to use women to defend its last holdouts in the city after losing many of its men in the battle, a local news sitereported Monday.
Major General Maen al-Saadi, chief of the Iraqi second anti-terrorism special operations, confirmed that IS is now using women fighters in Mosul, Ara News said
“After having lost many of its men, IS began to use women in the fight,” Saadi said, quoted by Ara News.
“In a bid to impede the Iraqi forces’ progress, Daesh (IS) terrorists began to spread out snipers in the Old City of Mosul, beside using suicide bombers and car bomb attacks,” Ara News cited the Iraqi general command as saying on Sunday.
Clashes have intensified in recent days between the US-backed Iraqi forces and IS militants in the vicinity of the Old City, where an estimated 200,000 civilians are trapped.
The winding streets, blind alleyways and densely-packed buildings makes military progress especially difficult, but Iraqi commanders are adamant that the city will be re-taken by June 10.
The Joint Operations Command said Iraqi aircraft dropped thousands of leaflets on the IS-held areas of the Old City and al-Shifaa, al-Zanjili and al-Saha districts on Monday, urging to civilians to leave their homes.
The Save the Children charity said it is “deeply concerned that any calls to leave west Mosul will mean that civilians, particularly children, are in significant danger of being caught in the crossfire”.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled Mosul amid the fighting while hundreds more have been killed or wounded.
The offensive to recapture Mosul – Iraq’s second largest city – began more than seven months ago in mid-October and several previous deadlines for its liberation have passed.
IS overran Mosul, 400 km north of Baghdad, in July 2014 during a lightening campaign when it captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria and established a so-called ‘Islamic Caliphate’ there.