The jihadis swept into Mosul two years ago as Iraqi forces fled
Desperate ISIS commanders have recruited children in Iraq’s second city to act as spies as the group’s prepares itself for a major onslaught that could signal the death knell of the extremists in Iraq.
Youngsters aged just eight are said to be patrolling the city armed with knives and guns to monitor for any informants.
Families have told how they have had to pretend their children are mentally ill to avoid having them recruited by the barbaric extremist group.
Mosul, home to up to 1.5 million people, has been the headquarters of ISIS’ self-declared caliphate in northern Iraq since 2014.
The battle for the city, expected to erupt later this month, will help shape the future both of the terror network and of Iraq.
The jihadis, who swept into Mosul two years ago as Iraqi forces fled, have rigged its five bridges with explosives, prepared car bombs and suicide attackers and stepped up surveillance, residents have said.
They are even changing their appearance in order to slip under the radar after the offensive begins, with militants reportedly shaving off their beards.
The same tactic was employed by the jihadists in the Libyan city of Sirte when the Islamist fighters cut off facial hair to blend in with civilians.
Hoshiyar Zebari, a former Iraqi finance and foreign minister, said: “They are digging in to fight for Mosul.
“They are more cautious, shaving their beards to blend in with the population and constantly moving their headquarters around.”
Mosul residents said the militants have also dug a two-metre-deep trench around the perimeter of the city to be filled with burning oil to make air strikes more difficult.