Baghdad: Islamic State (IS) militants launched bomb attacks targeting civilians fleeing the militant-seized town of Shirqat in Iraq’s Salahudin province on Saturday, killing 13 and injuring 19 others, a provincial security source said.
In one attack, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest among a crowd of families in western Shirqat, some 280 km north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, after they left their homes to seek help from the security forces outside the besieged town, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
The blast left 11 people dead and nine others wounded, most of them women and children, the source said. In another attack, a bomb planted on a road outside Shirqat went off near a group of fleeing families, killing two children and wounding 10, the source added.
In recent days, around 5,000 families have fled Shirqat and surrounding villages, which have been under control of the extremist militants since 2014. But the siege from security forces has pushed most of the militants in the town to flee to the IS stronghold in Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad.
This has weakened their grip on the town, making it possible for the civilians to escape, after suffering blackout and acute shortage of food, drinking water and medicine for long.
The exodus come as security forces try to free the towns of Shirqat and Qayyara as part of a major offensive aimed at liberating the IS stronghold in Mosul, the capital of Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh.
Iraq has witnessed worsening violence since the IS took control of parts of its northern and western regions in June 2014. Many blame today’s chronic instability, cycle of violence and the rise of extremist groups, such as the IS, on the U.S. that invaded and occupied Iraq in March 2003, under the pretext of seeking to destroy weapons of mass destruction in the country.
The war led to the ouster and eventual execution of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, but no such weapons have been found.