The Daesh terrorist group is striking back with suicide bombings as Iraqi forces appear on the cusp of full victory in Mosul, with at least 15 people killed in the latest assaults across Iraq, officials said yesterday.
The attacks underscore the intense violence still plaguing the battered country and the perils that remain as the battle for Iraq's second-largest city nears its end.
In Mosul's Old City neighborhood — the scene of Daesh' 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 in Iraq's western Anbar province, a suicide bomber dressed in a woman's all-covering robe 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 Daesh now controlling just over 1 square kilometer in all, or about 0.40 square miles.
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.
More than eight months after the operation to retake Mosul was launched, Daesh has gone from fully controlling the city to holding a limited area on its western side.
"The enemy has been using suicide bombers, especially women, for the past three days in some of the neighborhoods," said Staff Lieutenant General Sami al-Aridhi, a senior commander in the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS). "Before that, they were using snipers and bombs more," he said.
"There are still at least 200 fighters from the [Daesh] organization" in Mosul, most of them foreigners, he said.
Iraqi forces have been closing in on th
e Old City in west Mosul for months, but its narrow streets and closely spaced buildings combined with a large civilian population made for an extremely difficult fight. "The battle will end in five days to a week," Aridhi said. Civilians fleeing the fighting are receiving treatment at a makeshift clinic in Mosul.
Security forces recaptured a series of nearby districts, cornering the militants, and launched an assault inside the Old City on June 18. They have since made significant progress. But the impending end of the battle has given rise to the latest round of inter-service rivalry over who gets to declare it over.
A statement attributed to the federal police chief circulated on Sunday, feting "their victory... which was achieved in the territory of Mosul," while police forces in the city celebrated with a band, flags and dancing. But police commander Lieutenant General Raed Shakir Jawdat later issued a statement saying that while the mission of the federal police was over, other forces were still fighting and an announcement of victory would be made later by the Iraqi premier.
Iraq's Joint Operations Command said yesterday that the federal police were still fighting and had not captured all of their objectives. "Federal police forces continue to fight fierce battles... on the southern front and are advancing toward their targets," the JOC said.