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Iraqi military launches Saladin operation after spate of ISIS attacks

Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) launched a new operation in Saladin province on Tuesday to track remnants of the Islamic State group (ISIS) following a spate of deadly attacks.

The group has taken advantage of recent instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the political crisis in Baghdad to mount a campaign of attacks on Iraqi personnel, Kurdish Peshmerga, and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militiamen.

The ISF has mounted several mop-up operations in recent months, combing rural areas of Saladin, Diyala, Kirkuk, Nineveh, and Anbar looking for ISIS hideouts, arms caches, and bomb factories.

Tuesday’s operation follows an especially bloody spate of assaults, including a brazen suicide attack on the Iraqi directorate for counter-terrorism and intelligence in Kirkuk on April 28 and the slaughter of 10 PMF militiamen in coordinated attacks in Saladin on May 2.

“Saladin Operations Command and Brigades of Hashd al-Shaabi launched a military operation from four different fronts in Mukashafah district and areas located west of the Tigris River to search for Daesh remnants,” defense ministry spokesperson Yehia Rasool tweeted Tuesday, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Four PMF brigades are taking part in the operation, according to Iraqi Security Media Cell.

In an earlier tweet, Rasool said the ISF killed three ISIS militants in Kirkuk’s Gaida region. Three members of the Sunni tribal militia Hashd al-Ashairi and one federal policeman were killed by an improvised explosive device and gunfire in Rashad. He did not say when the attacks took place.

ISIS claimed responsibility for several of recent attacks on messaging app Telegram, including the destruction of thermal cameras installed in these areas to track their nighttime movements.

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

Between January 1 and April 15, the ISF carried out 1,060 operations and killed 135 ISIS targets, Rasool said on April 21. The flurry of military activity comes as the ISF increasingly takes the lead in anti-ISIS operations and the US-led coalition steps back. Source