Advancing Iraqi forces in western Mosul have captured a textile factory that Islamic State (IS) used to as a jail to hold women, officials inside the city told VOA.
“The Islamic State imprisoned nearly 300 women in the building,” Gayath Surchi, the speaker of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party in Mosul told VOA.
The textile factory is located between al-Mansour and Wadi al-Hajar neighborhoods in western Mosul and came under the Iraqi control Sunday night, according to Surchi.
Mines slow rescue
Another Kurdish official in Mosul, Said Mamozini, told VOA that the factory was besieged by Iraqi forces last week but IS mines planted around the building prevented them from further advancing.
“There are heavy clashes with IS fighters in nearby neighborhoods until now,” Mamozini told VOA.
The officials said the identity of the rescued women remained unclear pending an investigation. But officials believe many of the women belong to the Yazidi religious minority sect. IS kidnapped many Yazidi women in 2014 and enslaved them.
Women will be taken to refugee camps
Surchi said the women will be transferred to refugee camps in northern Mosul where they will be identified and reunited with their families.
“The women are under the Iraqi forces’ protection but haven’t been evacuated yet because of IS snipers and bombing,” he said
“Their ages vary between 20-year-old to 70-years-old and some of them speak Kurdish,” Surchi said. “This makes me expect those women to be our Yazidi mothers and daughters.”
IS attacked Sinjar, the ancestral capital for more than 200,000 Yazidis in August 2014, killing roughly 5,000 of its male residents and enslaving thousands of women and children. The women were reportedly used as sex slaves, while the children are taught IS ideology.
According to the Iraqi Kurdistan’s Directorate of Yazidi Affairs, roughly 2,500 Yazidi women and children are still under IS control in Syria and Iraq.