Iraqi police ban niqab at IS-free locations in Mosul to hunt undercover militants

Iraqi police forces banned women at areas recaptured from Islamic State militants in Mosul from wearing the Islamic full-face cover (niqab) for security considerations, an officer said Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Watheq al-Hamadni, head of Nineveh police, said in statements quoted by Turkish Anadolu Agency saying several Islamic State members had been caught disguised in such garments.

He said the disguised militants used niqabs to escape from their havens to liberated areas, especially in the western side of the city. IS had imposed niqabs on Iraqi civilian women at areas under their control as part of its extreme religious rules, the violation of which could be punishable with sometimes fatal sentences.

Iraqi government forces recaptured eastern Mosul in January after three months of fighting, but the region had seen occasional attacks by IS using suicide bombers and drones, leaving deaths among civilians and security troops. Security officials and observers had voiced fears that IS might have left “sleeper cells” that could carry out further assaults. Security commanders regularly report the arrest of individuals with suspected links with the militant group.

Iraqi forces, earlier on Saturday, invaded IS’s last strongholds at the Old City, where the group first declared the establishment of its rule in Iraq and Syria in 2014.