The woman holds a baby in her arms, but in her right hand carries the detonator to her bomb
At first sight the picture appears to show a mother cradling her young child as she flees an Islamic State-held area of Mosul.
But a closer look reveals she is holding a trigger., which she will pull seconds later.
Woman holding detonator in Mosul blows herself up along with a small child moments after the picture was taken. Credit: Al-Mawsleya TV
An Iraqi TV station captured the moment before a suspected female Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) suicide bomber blew herself – and the baby – up near Iraqi troops.
She had apparently tried to detonate an explosives vest hidden under her hijab as she passed the soldiers, but it failed to go off until she had walked some distance away, a cameraman for al-Mawsleya TV said.
She was killed along with her child, while two soldiers and several civilians were injured.
The station had been filming the battle between Iraqi troops and Isil fighters and did not realise what they had caught on camera until they reviewed their footage later.
Isil is cornered in a tiny square of the historic Old City, which the army said could be liberated by the end of the day.
“We are seeing now the last metres and then final victory will be announced,” a host of Iraqi state TV said on Saturday, citing the channel’s correspondents embedded with security forces battling in Isil’s redoubt in the Old City, by the Tigris river. “It’s a matter of hours,” she said.
The jihadists have used everything in their arsenal to fend off the troops in the final throes of the nine month-long offensive.
Isil’s use of female suicide bombers in battle, while not new, is exceedingly rare and demonstrates the group’s desperation.
More than 20 female suicide bombers hiding among civilians are believed to have detonated explosives in the last two weeks.
One general claimed they were even using their own children as human shields.
“The women are fighting with their children right beside them,” Lieutenant General Sami al-Aridi said. “It’s making us hesitant to use air strikes, to advance. If it weren’t for this we could be finished in just a few hours.”
Preventing the attacks has proved difficult. Iraq’s socially conservative culture means soldiers do not ask women to lift up their clothes to check for explosives as they do men.
An Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) member drinks as he sits amid the rubble in the old city of Mosul Credit: AFP
Isil’s so-called “jihadist brides” typically stay at home and look after the children, but experts say women are becoming more active, wishing to also take part in jihad on a par with men.
During a recent visit to Mosul, civilians told the Telegraph that the women Isil members were as brutal as the men.
“I was more afraid of the women fighters than the men, they were like wild animals,” said Umm Omar.
She said women in Isil served as hisba, or morality, officers and would ensure females living in the so-called caliphate adhered to the jihadists’ strict dress code. She claimed many were whipped for minor infractions.