In Rudaw

Iraq continues fourth phase of anti-ISIS operation in Diyala

Iraqi security forces launched the next stage in the fourth phase of a joint security operation against  Islamic State (ISIS) remnants in Diyala province on Sunday.

The latest stage of the “Heroes of Iraq” operation was launched with the aim of tracking terrorist cells in the province, according to Yehia Rasool, spokesperson for the commander-in-chief.

It also aims to “create a safe environment for the return of displaced families” in various areas, he tweeted.

According to Iraqi state media, the latest phase is being conducted across three frontlines by the Iraqi army, local and federal police and rapid response forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces  (PMF, or Hashd al Shaabi in Arabic) – an umbrella network of mostly Shiite paramilitary forces established to fight ISIS in 2014.

The first phase of the operation was announced in mid-May, with a focus on the provinces of Anbar, Nineveh and Salahaddin. Phase two was announced on June 2, targeting ISIS holdouts on the fringes of Salahaddin and Kirkuk.

The third phase of the operation was launched in late June and covered “stretches of northern Iraq,” according to Rasool.

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.

Having lost all of its urban strongholds, the group is now most active in Iraq’s remote deserts and mountains, and in territories disputed by the governments of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, where a wide security vacuum has opened up.

Diyala, which lies in the disputed territories, has become a hotspot for ISIS attacks. Members of the minority Kakai community have been particularly targeted.

ISIS has always referred to Kakais as “infidels” in its weekly al-Naba newsletter, which is usually published by the group’s propaganda channels on Telegram messaging app. Source