TERRORISM

ISIS women suicide bombers hit back in Mosul as Iraq nears recapturing city

A string of women suicide bombers attacking Iraqi troops Monday have left at least 15 people dead as forces close in to retake Mosul after more than three years under the Islamic State group's control.

Two women suicide bombers targeted Iraqi troops, killing one soldier and wounding several others. They hid among civilians fleeing the city. On Sunday, At least 14 people, including a police colonel, were killed and 20 others were wounded in another attack at a camp for displaced people by a suicide bomber dressed in a woman's all-covering robe, a provincial official said. The colonel had grew increasingly suspicious and embraced the attacker moments before the bombs were detonated.

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The tactic is apparently the latest attempt by ISIS to maintain control of the second-largest city in Iraq, Sgt. Ali Abdullah Hussein told The Associated Press. Hussein was returning from the front line with 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.

At least seven female suicide bombers have targeted Iraqi troops on Monday but were stopped before causing major damage. 

"Some women exploded themselves on fleeing families. This is an evil and cowardly attempt by terrorists to inflict the greatest losses on civilians and security forces," Lt. Col. Salam Hussein, of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces said. 

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ISIS now controls just over 1 square kilometer in all, or about 0.40 square miles. More than three years ago the militant group gained control of the city in just three days, but the U.S.-backed offensive launched a mission last October to retake the city. Nearly nine months later, Iraqi forces are on the cusp of regaining control. 

Iraqi forces launched the operation to retake the Old City in mid-June. Initially, Iraqi political and military officials had vowed that victory would be declared in the city by the end of 2016.

The attacks by women suicide bombers underscore the intense violence still plaguing the battered nation and the perils that will remain even after IS militants are pushed out of Mosul.

Over the past three days, Hussein said at least four such attacks have targeted Iraqi forces as hundreds of Mosul's civilians are fleeing the battles in the Old City's congested streets.

Iraqi forces have pushed IS out of most of Anbar, and though there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the camp attack, it had all the hallmarks of IS, which has in the past months staged large-scale attacks elsewhere in Iraq to distract from its losses in Mosul.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.