As Iraqi troops say female Islamic State fighters are using children as human shields to defend the terror group's remaining tiny territory in Mosul's Old City, a shocking image has appeared of a woman clutching a baby with one arm and holding a trigger in the other hand moments before detonating explosives hidden under her hijab.
The photo was captured by a local television channel seconds before a suspected female Islamic State suicide bomber blew up herself and the baby next to where Iraqi troops were standing.
The woman could not detonate the explosives near the troops, so the explosion took place after she had passed by them, according to reports. However, two soldiers and a few civilians were still injured, while the woman and the baby died.
"The women are fighting with their children right beside them," the Time magazine quoted Lt. Gen. Sami al-Aridi of Iraq's special forces as saying. "It's making us hesitant to use airstrikes, to advance. If it weren't for this we could be finished in just a few hours."
Iraqi troops recently recaptured the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, from where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed himself leader of the terror group three years ago, and residents are preparing to celebrate an expected victory in the city.
Iraqi troops, who are supported by a U.S.-led international coalition, last week hung white banners and the country's flags on lamp posts and damaged buildings as authorities were planning a week of nationwide celebrations.
"We are seeing now the last metres and then final victory will be announced," a host of Iraqi state TV said Saturday. "It's a matter of hours."
Taking back Mosul from the Islamic State, also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL and Daesh, will effectively mark the end of the caliphate in Iraq.
"I think ISIS is clearly defeated, not only militarily but also psychologically and propagandisticly," Ely Karmon, a senior research scholar at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Israel's Interdisciplinary Center, told CBC News last week. "We see that their propaganda material, which was quite sophisticated, is less and less disseminated. We don't hear the leaders of ISIS on audio or video."
While ISIS now controls just over 1 square kilometer in all, according to The Associated Press, the battle for Mosul has been going on for nearly nine months, displacing almost half of the city's population and killing thousands.