This is the harrowing moment a battle-hardened Iraqi soldier was brought to tears after uncovering the remains of a tiny girl murdered by ISIS.
The body was found in a mass grave of some 24 victims – most of them children – in Mosul, northern Iraq, after an area of the besieged city was seized back off the terror group.
Shocking pictures show the unknown youngster wrapped in a blanket and a soldier overcome with grief next to the burial site.
The images highlight the horrific reality of ISIS rule in the war-torn city where mass executions of civilians are carried out even for the ‘crime’ of trying to flee to a safer area.
Iraqi fighters came across the grave as they made further inroads in their battle to reclaim Mosul from ISIS.
Pictures show the bodies of adults and children covered with blankets next to a shallow grave in a remote patch of land about 100ft from a road.
They emerged as Iraqi government forces attempted to encircle Mosul’s Old City on Thursday in a bid to bottle up ISIS militants.
The army and security forces have made significant gains in recent days in the battle that started back in October, seizing a main bridge over the Tigris river and advancing towards the mosque in the Old City from where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate in 2014.
But the fighting is expected to become even harder as the militants defend their last enclaves in what was once their stronghold in Iraq.
‘We have a plan to surround the Old City. Today we have advanced from the right and left sides and the only part left is right in the middle. God willing we will continue this plan today,’ Federal Police Major General Haidar Dhirgham said.
The need to ensure the safety of civilians, many of them hungry from a lack of provisions and traumatised by living under Islamic State’s harsh rule, was also a priority.
‘I expect the liberation of Mosul completely in one month. I will not tell you one or two weeks, because that’s not true, but within one or two months it will be completely liberated,’ Dhirgham told Reuters.
Several more areas of western Mosul had been recaptured, including the hospital, over Wednesday and Thursday morning.
‘There are only some neighborhoods that remain, like the Old City. This is too narrow but our forces will be able to enter soon.’
As many as 6,000 ISIS fighters remained in Mosul, including other Arab nationalities and foreigners, he said.
Suicide bombers were driving explosive-rigged cars at troops. There had been three such attacks on Thursday morning, he said. Troops has also seized buildings in which suicide vehicles were being prepared.