The Islamic State group has abducted 120 schoolchildren in the embattled Iraqi city of Mosul, it was reported Sunday, and has transported the kids to an unknown location.
According to Iraqi sources quoted by the German DPA wire service, the children, aged 12-15, were reportedly snatched from their classrooms and loaded on military vehicles by the Islamist extremists.
According to local reports, the abducted children were taken by IS to be trained as fighters for the terror group. The children of wealthy families are said to be ransomed back to their families for significant sums that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.
On Saturday, Islamic State fighters launched suicide attacks against the Baiji oil refinery, Iraq’s largest, a senior army officer said. The jihadist group claimed it broke in but the Iraqi army said the site, which has been the scene of fierce battles since IS swept across the region last year, remained under its control.
The Islamic State group launched a massive offensive on northwestern Iraq in June and swept across much of the country’s Sunni Arab heartland within days.
Counter-terror and other forces tasked with protecting the vital Baiji refinery held out and remained besieged for months.
An Iraqi operation, backed by airstrikes from a US-led coalition, eventually broke the siege of Baiji in October and retook the city, which lies just south of the refinery. The jihadists have since wrested the city back.
Following their victory in Tikrit earlier this month, government forces will have to re-take Baiji once again as they continue to move north towards the key IS hub of Mosul.
The Baiji refinery once produced some 300,000 barrels of refined petroleum products per day, meeting 50 percent of the country’s needs.
AFP contributed to this report.