Rudaw

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New cycle of ISIS crop arson stoked as summer approaches

Islamic State (ISIS) militants in Iraq have once again begun claiming responsibility for the arson of agricultural land as another hot and dry summer season approaches.

The group’s militants torched crop fields in al-Bou Khiyal, a village in al-Athim area of Diyala province, according to its weekly al-Nabaa newspaper published on messaging app Telegram on Thursday.

Incidences of crop arson across Iraq have been reported by local media outlets in the past week. State media reported the burning of crops in Najaf province on Tuesday, but said it was the result of an electrical fault.

Iraq’s government is stepping up plans to protect the country’s agricultural land as summer begins, Muhammed Amin Faris, a member of parliament’s Agricultural and Water Resources committee told Rudaw on Tuesday.

“This is something that happens every year during summer,” Faris said. “The agricultural and water resources committee in Iraqi parliament has already sent a letter to the ministries of interior and defense, as well as to the provinces, urging them to protect the agricultural fields and crops from burning,”

Responsibility for the defense of vulnerable territory ultimately lies with Baghdad, Faris added.

“The defense and interior ministries are responsible for protecting agricultural land in Iraq from ISIS militants, who are behind the burning of fields.”

It is feared that recent incidences of arson could mark the replication of last year’s attacks that saw hundreds of thousands of donums of agricultural land catch fire across Iraq over the summer.

Although the Iraqi government announced the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq in December 2017, remnants of the group have since returned to their earlier insurgency tactics, ambushing security forces, kidnapping and executing suspected informants, and extorting money from vulnerable rural populations. The group’s activity is focused on territories the group once controlled and are now disputed by the governments of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.

In its most deadly attack since its territorial defeat, the group carried out a five-pronged offensive on Iraqi security forces that killed ten members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Saladin on Saturday.

On the same day, militants killed three federal police officers and wounded two others in an attack on Zaghniya police station, Diyala province.

The attacks were just two of 64 carried out in Iraq between April 30 and May 6 for which the group claimed responsibility via al-Nabaa on Thursday. More than half were conducted in the province of Diyala alone.

In mid-April, then-Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari vowed the government would “ramp up” anti-ISIS efforts to prevent the group from capitalizing on Baghdad’s prioritization of its efforts on the coronavirus crisis.

Parliament approved the appointment of new prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and his cabinet on Wednesday night, and the premier placed tackling ISIS high on his list of priorities.

More military equipment and weapons are to provided to security forces “in order to face the increased ISIS activities in liberated provinces [once under the group’s territorial control], read Kadhimi’s agenda published Wednesday. Source