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Doubts and mourning in Iraq after a new attack by the Islamic State

Salaheddin province declared mourning for three days on Sunday, following the death of 10 people in a jihadist attack that drew criticism against Iraqi forces for failing to eliminate the clandestine cells of the Islamic State (IS).

On Friday, the head of the federal police, General Jaafar al Batat, celebrated the “success of the total security operation on Mount Makhul”, some 200 kilometers north of Baghdad, in statements to the official Iraqi agency.

The next day, at night, the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) responded with a roadside bomb that exploded when a civilian car passed by.

When the police and members of the Hashd al Shaabi – a coalition of paramilitaries now integrated into the state – came to the scene, the jihadists shot them.

Six soldiers and four civilians were killed in this ambush by the jihadists. A dozen days earlier, eleven other Iraqis, including Hashd al Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units, PMU) fighters, were killed in a grenade attack at a military post at the western entrance to Baghdad.

High balances in a country that has not suffered major attacks since the victory over ISIS was announced three years ago.

– Jihadist resurgence –

The modus operandi, with grenades, roadside bombs or light weapons, remains simple, say Iraqi or foreign military personnel from the US-led anti-jihadist coalition.

But this does not prevent, according to experts, that the Iraqi branch of IS is currently the most active of the group, which lost its self-proclaimed territorial “caliphate” in Syria in 2019.

“Its activities have increased rapidly since February 2020,” details a study published in November by the International Counterterrorism Center in The Hague.

This increase in attacks recalls “the resurgence of 2012” and brings to light the new IS strategy: “it goes from the reconstruction phase to that of guerrilla-style lightning attacks against the security forces and their supporters,” the study states. .

“The IS attacks in remote areas are isolated cases, now under control,” General Batat celebrated in state media on Friday.

Stoppage for Jamal al-Dhari, a Sunni politician, Saturday’s ambush “evidenced the repeated failures of the fight against terrorism” and “Mustafa al-Kazami’s government must seriously implement a national strategy.”

– New US withdrawal –

According to the Sunni deputy Mechaane al Juburi, to keep their cells clandestine, the jihadists take advantage of the geography of the mountainous and desert area, such as Mount Makhul “which the Iraqi forces claimed they had cleaned days ago.”

The latest attacks come after the United States announced that it would soon withdraw 500 of its soldiers deployed in Iraq, leaving only 2,500.

Almost all of the troops from other member states of the anti-jihadist coalition left the country at the beginning of the new coronavirus pandemic.

In the Iraqi parliament, Shiite forces continue to demand the withdrawal of US troops, whom protesters and pro-Iranian forces describe as “occupiers.”

The US embassy was recently hit by rockets, a new message from the pro-Iranians for the future US administration of Joe Biden.

The other members of the coalition do not stop warning about a possible resurgence of the IS.

str-sbh / elm / bc / zm