Islamic militants with links to al-Qaeda are using mentally handicapped people as human bombs in Iraq, according to the Iraqi government.
Iraqi officials suspect militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) of carrying out seven such attacks in recent months, a government source told the Italian news agency ANSA.
"They kidnap mentally ill people in the streets, make them wear explosive vests, then they make them detonate with remote control devices," said General Saad Maan, spokesman for the interior minister.
ISIL is currently trying to establish an Islamic state in an energy-rich province on the Syria-Iraq border, AFP reported.
"Their goal is to link together the two areas [Syria, Iraq] to set up their state and then to continue spreading," activist and citizen journalist Abdel Salam Hussein told the AFP.
"They are pressing their bid by pushing tribes to swear oaths of loyalty to them, and by fighting rival factions in an attempt to ensure they emerge the strongest. ISIL have oil, money and weapons,” said the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman.
Kurds fighting against ISIL forces in Syria say Islamic extremist fighters are known for their depravity.
“They cut hands, cut heads, play with corpses,” a female fighter told the National Post. “Many of them are on drugs. They attack randomly, haphazardly. But they can’t progress into our areas.”