Mourning after IS attack kills 10 north of Iraqi capital

Mourning after IS attack kills 10 north of Iraqi capital

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Samara: The Islamic State organization claimed on Sunday that it had launched an attack on Iraq and killed 10 people the night before. This aroused criticism that the country has made too little effort to combat jihadists.

The bloodshed occurred in Salahuddin province north of Baghdad, and mourned for three days.

The attackers first hit a civilian car with a roadside bomb near the mountain on Saturday night. Police say Makhoul is 200 kilometers (120 miles) north of the capital.

Local medical personnel said that when the security forces arrived, the gunmen opened fire, killing at least six security personnel and four civilians, including those who died of wounds overnight.

The latest violence has heightened concerns about the government’s efforts to combat Islamic radicals, who have been carrying out immediate attacks on their cells.

After three years of brutal fighting, Baghdad announced in 2017 that the Islamic State had been defeated, which enabled the ultra-conservative armed groups that control large areas of Syria to retake one third of Iraq’s territory.

However, even though the jihadists no longer possess what they call “caliphs,” the sleeping cells of the Islamic State still attack the national infrastructure, especially in the desert north of Baghdad.

Two weeks ago, an IS attack killed 11 people in Al-Radwaniyah, a mostly Sunni Muslim suburb in Baghdad.

The Hague International Counter-Terrorism Center said that the jihadist group claimed more attacks in Iraq between December 2018 and May this year than in any other country.

The center stated in a new study this month that, starting in February of this year, IS activities in Iraq have “rapidly accelerated” to “very close” to the level before the 2014 takeover.

The study pointed out that although the death toll is still low, Iraq’s IS seems to be at a stage “characterized by brutal guerrilla attacks.”

The Iraqi security forces under Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi have been conducting new campaigns to arrest jihadists hiding in the rugged terrain of the north and west of the country.

The security forces publicly declared success. The day before the latest attack, Federal Police Chief Jaafar al-Batat told the official media that the Makhoul area had been cleaned up after some “isolated cases” linked to IS-a comment that angered locals.

“Iraqi security forces just assured us this area had been cleaned,” wrote Mashaan al-Jaboury, a Sunni lawmaker representing Salahaddin, on Twitter after Saturday s violence.

Jamal al-Dhari, another Sunni figure, tweeted that the latest ambush “sheds light on the repeated failures in the fight against terrorism”.

“The government of Mustafa al-Kadhemi must seriously put in place a national strategy … and stop being satisfied with  investigative committees, ” said Dhari.

Iraqis regularly mock their government for establishing investigative bodies that do not produce results.

The tensions come as the US-led coalition which helped Iraq fight IS from 2014, is drawing down its troops.

This year, the US has already shrunk its contribution to the coalition from 5,200 to some 3,000 troops, as other countries have reduced their numbers as well.

The US announced last week it would withdraw another 500 troops by mid-January, which Iraqi officials say is the fourth and final phase of the coalition s drawdown.

The top US commander for the Middle East, General Kenneth McKenzie, said the progress made by Iraqi security forces in recent years had allowed the US to send more troops home.

Tose forces remaining in Iraq would focus on training local forces, carrying out air strikes in support of their operations and running drone surveillance over the country.

The US military presence remains a source of controversy.

Iraq s parliament voted in January to oust all foreign troops, following a US drone strike on Baghdad that killed top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and a leading Iraqi paramilitary commander.

Kadhemi, whose government is seen as US-leaning, has slow-walked the implementation.

Dozens of rocket attacks have meanwhile targeted Western diplomatic and military installations since October 2019.

The US has threatened to close its embassy in Baghdad unless the rocket attacks stop.

Pro-Iran factions have organised a series of rallies in recent months to demand Kadhemi send home the foreign troops.

One sign at a recent protest read: “If you don t leave on your own, our rockets will force you out!”

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