Iraqi warplanes kill ‘group of’ suspected ISIS members in rural Salahuddin

The Iraqi army on Sunday said its air force carried out a series of strikes against positions held by the so-called Islamic State in rural Salahuddin province, killing a ‘group of’ fighters.

This marks the latest air operation the Iraqi forces have carried out using F-16s, targeting hideouts of the terrorist organization in Salahuddin province, which contains sprawling near-uninhabitable areas that are used by sleeper cells to plan and carry out attacks on nearby territories witnessing security gaps.

The Iraqi military communications center, the Security Media Cell, said that the warplanes directed “precise strikes against the hideouts of [ISIS] terrorist gangs on the island of Abdul Aziz, located in the middle of the Tigris River west of al-Dour district in Salahuddin province.”

The army statement said the shelling “killed a group of terrorist elements and completely destroyed the hideouts,” from where the group launches attacks on the Iraqi security forces and citizens.

Iraqi forces have carried out a series of sweeping operations in that area, as well as other hotbeds of Islamic State militancy. Still, the terrorist organization’s insurgency continues, seeing a marked uptick in recent weeks as other crises grip the country, including the coronavirus outbreak.

In an earlier operation on April 13, anti-ISIS Coalition airstrikes and a ground assault by Iraqi forces killed over 20 suspected Islamic State fighters based in the Wadi al-Shai of disputed Kirkuk province, a Coalition statement said on Friday.

Baghdad declared a military victory over the group in late 2017.

The group appears to be reorganizing its ranks in territories disputed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government, taking advantage of the security vacuum in areas between those controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.

On Saturday alone, nine members of the Iraqi security forces and two civilians were injured in four separate attacks by Islamic State sleeper agents in different parts of the central province of Diyala. One of the incidents involved a blast that apparently targeted troops engaged in a military operation to search out remnants of the extremist group.

Kurdish officials have repeatedly stressed the necessity of cooperation between the regional and national governments’ forces to protect civilians living there.

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