Iraq
Iraqi forces are now setting their sights on Mosul and pressing simultaneous operations from the south and the east of Qayyarah, a town in the Tigris valley they want to use as a launchpad for an offensive on Isis' de facto Iraqi capitalMahmoud al-Samarrai/AFP/Getty Images

Islamic State (Isis) jihadists have slaughtered a pregnant woman and abducted her four children after they were caught trying to flee their village near Mosul, according to reports. The five family members were said to have been apprehended by the terrorists on Tuesday (2 August) near al-Marir village to the south of Mosul city.

They were said to have been making their way towards an area under the control of the Iraqi army and security forces close to the Al-Qayara military base, in the north of the embattled country.

Witnesses say the extremists caught the pregnant mother, who was then executed, before her children were taken captive in another village under IS (Daesh) control. The fate of the children remains unknown.

An eyewitness is said to have told the Shia-affiliated Abna news agency about the horrific murder, but IBTimes UK could not verify the claim.

Mosul was overrun by IS in June 2014 as they captured vast swathes of Iraqi territory. While Iraq's second city remains under IS control, many of the terrorist group's gains have since been clawed back by Iraqi forces backed by US-led coalition air strikes and Kurdish forces.

British RAF Tornado and Typhoon jets based in Akrotiri, Cyprus, are flying daily missions against IS in their self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria. In one of the latest attacks, they destroyed a former palace owned by Saddam Hussein that was being used by IS as its headquarters and a training centre for foreign terrorists.

The complex, which sat in a large secure compound next to the Tigris River included not just the main palace building used as accommodation by the terrorists, but also a number of discreet outbuildings used for command and control, training, internal security and repression, according to authorities.

"Daesh has been losing followers and territory for months, and emphatic strikes like this show that we and the coalition will not waver," Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said after the palace was bombed. "Daesh fighters, both foreign and home-grown, can see that they are targets inside this cult."

In July, IS published a propaganda video of British hostage John Cantlie discussing coalition air strikes on Mosul University. The photojournalist was kidnapped by Islamists in November 2012.