Islamic State (Isis) militants have reportedly kidnapped 120 schoolchildren in the Iraqi city of Mosul, where Iraqi forces along with Kurdish fighters are engaged in a desperate battle against the Islamists.
The Times of Israel quoted Iraqi sources as saying that children aged between 12 and 15-years-old were forcibly taken away from their classrooms and loaded onto military vehicles by IS members.
Local reports suggest that the children will now be made part of the Islamist organisation and trained as fighters, while those belonging to wealthy families will be released after ransom is paid to the militants.
Mosul key to Isis defeat
Mosul has remained a stronghold of the Islamic group. The city was captured by the militants in June 2014 after beating back Iraqi forces. Following this, an international coalition led by the US, Canada and European nations has been involved in backing a Kurdish campaign against IS.
Recently, US air strikes targeted IS positions in the southern city of Tikrit, and the Iraqi army and Shia militia fighters are pushing north towards Mosul.
Kurdish fighters, who have reached the borders of Mosul are reportedly making coordinated efforts to enter the Sunni Arab-majority city.
On 2 April, IBTimes UK quoted foreign minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Falah Mustafa as saying: "Mosul is key to defeating IS in Iraq as a whole, which is why the front line is there. There have been clashes – they have attacked, we have attacked. The issue is that… it has to be an Iraqi attempt that has to be coordinated with the Iraqi army, the Sunni community, peshmerga support and the US and the coalition."