Isil deploys 'unprecedented' wave of suicide bombers in Mosul
Isil has launched an "unprecedented" wave of suicide bombers, some of whom are children, against advancing Iraqi forces as the jihadist group clings to its city stronghold of Mosul.
More than 100 suicide bombers have hurled themselves at Iraqi troops since the Mosul offensive began on October 17, a rate of self-annihilation extreme even by the standards of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
"The amount of people killing themselves is unprecedented. It's different from anything we've seen before," said Charlie Winter, a senior fellow at the ICSR think tank who tracks the use of suicide bombers.
Among those who have killed themselves in the battle for Mosul was Irish jihadist Terence Kelly, who styled himself as Abu Osama Irelandi after joining Isil in the so-called caliphate.
The Dubliner blew himself up on Friday after driving a vehicle at a Shia militia group as it advanced into a village outside the city.
On one day on the battlefield there were 18 suicide attacks within 24 hours, more attacks than the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, had carried out in 100 days, Mr Winter added.
Many of the 102 suicide attacks have been carried out using improvised armoured vehicles which are packed to the brim with explosives and then driven at high speed at oncoming enemies.
Iraqi troops showed newspapers a 4x4 that Isil engineers had covered with armour plating, leaving only a small square of the windscreen open so the suicide bomber driver could see his target.
The vehicle was captured in the Christian village of Karemlesh before it could be put to use.
The Iraqi army has made swifter than expected progress into Mosul, with special forces this week breaching the city limits, though the operation is still expected to take months.
On Friday, special forces unleashed the most intense street battle since the offensive began three weeks ago, but their pace will slow to mitigate civilian casualties.
Many of the bombs and the armoured vehicles are being made in al-Karamah, an industrial district of Mosul where factories have been converted into bomb-making workshops.
Iraqi special forces have entered the area but are encountering stiff resistance.
General Fadel Al-Barawi, a special forces commander, said the jihadists were using suicide bombers in such large numbers because many of their best troops - especially foreign fighters from Chechnya - had been killed or fled.