In Rudaw 

UK air force participated in ‘major’ operation against ISIS in Makhmour: Ministry of Defence

The United Kingdom’s defence ministry has announced that the Royal Air Force (RAF) took part in a “major” ten day operation in March against Islamic State (ISIS) remnants in the Makhmour mountains, located southwest of Erbil.

“In an operation lasting 10 days in March this year, the Iraqi Security Forces ground troops cleared Daesh [ISIS] terrorists from the Makhmur Mountain region, south-west from Erbil, while RAF and other coalition aircraft carried out a major air offensive,” reads a statement by the British defence ministry sent to Rudaw English on Thursday.

“The operation concluded on 22 March when Daesh extremists were confirmed to be based in a network of caves in the Makhmur mountains,” the statement added. “Three Typhoon FGR4s were tasked to conduct an attack using Storm Shadow missiles, the remote area having first been checked to ensure that no civilians would be placed at risk.”

Although the Iraqi government announced the territorial defeat of ISIS in December 2017, remnants of the group have returned to earlier insurgency tactics, ambushing security forces, kidnapping and executing suspected informants, extorting money from vulnerable rural populations, and carrying out bomb attacks.

ISIS remnants in Iraq are most active in territory disputed between Erbil and Baghdad, notably in the northern provinces of Salahaddin, Diyala, and Kirkuk. The Kurdistan Region is generally considered to be more secure, but still occasionally faces terrorist threats.

“The Royal Air Force and wider Coalition have supported an operation led by a highly capable unit from the Iraqi Security Forces.  Together, we are working towards defeating the remnants of Daesh and ensuring its will is depleted,” said Air Commodore Simon Strasdin, Air Officer Commander of 83 Expeditionary Air Group and the UK Air Component Commander in the Middle East.

The global coalition has regularly provided aid to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

“The ISF received more EQ including aerostat towers, thermal cameras, & generators thru the U.S. CTEF program to strengthen Coalition partners capabilities to counter current, emergent, & future ISIS threats,” tweeted Colonel Wayne Marotto, spokesperson for the coalition on Tuesday.

The United States Department of Defense officially gave $12.5 million worth of military aid to Peshmerga forces at Erbil International Airport in January.  Vehicles were to be directly given to brigades under ministerial command, and not political parties, the coalition confirmed, saying the aid will be used in the fight against ISIS remnants.

“The British Armed Forces, alongside our Iraqi and Coalition partners, continue to root out Daesh terrorists from where they hide,” said British secretary of state for defence Ben Wallace.

“Throughout the 10 day operation, the RAF used Paveway IV bombs and Storm Shadow cruise missiles. This was the first operational use of the Storm Shadow cruise missile from a Typhoon FGR4 aircraft,” added the defence ministry’s statement.

“Coalition, therefore remains committed to working with Iraq to not only defeat Daesh but to also enhance security in the region.”

In its weekly propaganda newspaper al-Naba, ISIS claimed on Thursday it had conducted 12 attacks across Iraq from March 25th to 31st, killing and injuring 21 people.

Yehia Rasool, spokesperson for Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as the commander-in-chief of Iraq’s armed forces, in February warned of the ongoing threat of ISIS, especially in disputed areas with security vacuums.

“An important point is that there are kilometers where there is no security force from neither Iraq nor the Kurdistan Region, and it has become a hotspot for ISIS,” he said in a roundtable discussion held by Rudaw research center on February 19.