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PM Kadhimi launches major operation against ISIS remnants

In an unexpected visit to Kirkuk, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced Tuesday morning the Iraqi army will launch the second phase of an operation aimed to purge remnants of the Islamic State (ISIS) from Iraq.

The new push will target ISIS holdouts on the fringes of Salahaddin province and Kirkuk, following early operations in isolated regions of Anbar, Nineveh, and Salahaddin that started on May 17.

Kadhimi ordered the start of the operation, dubbed: “Iraq Heroes – Victory for Sovereignty,” the prime minister’s office announced on Twitter.

“In these difficult circumstances and the many challenges that the country is going through, our heroes of the armed forces of all kinds defy the enemy and play a heroic role to dry up the sources of terrorism,” prime minister’s office quoted Kadhimi as saying at the Kirkuk Joint Operation Command.

This is Kadhimi’s first visit to disputed Kirkuk since taking office as premier on May 7. Although the Iraqi government announced the territorial defeat of ISIS 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 in Kirkuk, Salahadin, Diyala, and Nineveh provinces.

Jabar Yawar, chief of staff of the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga Ministry told Rudaw that “Peshmerga forces are not involved in the operation.”

Commenting on forces involved in the widespread operation, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, spokesperson of the Iraqi Armed Forces said the operations would be a multi-pronged major offensive, involving eight different partners including local and federal Police, special forces, the Iraqi Air Force, and international coalition warplanes, as well as security and intelligence cooperation.

“The aim of this operation is to bolster security and stability and eradicate remnants of the Daesh militants as well apprehended those wanted by the state,” Rasool said in his statement.

Having lost all of its urban strongholds, ISIS is now most active in Iraq’s remote deserts and mountains, and in the disputed territories contested by the federal government and the autonomous Kurdish region, where a security vacuum has opened up.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for a spate of attacks on the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and units of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF,) also known as Hashd al-Shaabi.

ISIS has vowed to exploit the drawdown of American troops in Iraq, resuming hit-and-run tactics and torching crop fields. The group has claimed responsibility for arson attacks in Diyala and Mosul provinces. Source