Situation, Facts and Events

About IS activities in Iraq

In January, attacks by IS militants (Islamic State terrorist group, banned in Russia) were consistently observed in various parts of Iraq.

According to the experts, IS jihadists operating within the Wilayat Iraq have “reformulated their combat strategies in accordance with the new context on the ground and stepped up activities in areas that are still vulnerable to internal Iraqi problems, demonstrating the weakness of local security forces.

Presently, about 8,000 fighters are part of the Wilayat Iraq, of which about 4,000 are active. The rest belong to sleeper cells or represent supporters integrated into local communities in Sunni-majority governorates.”

On January 2, an ambush was orchestrated in the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Governorate, and one of the wanted IS terrorists was detained. Also on that day, Iraqi intelligence services managed to seize 69 improvised explosive devices and two suicide belts in various parts of the country.

On January 4, the Iraqi Armed Forces detained a female terrorist and two other IS terrorists in the Ninewa governorate.

On January 8, international coalition forces shot down an unidentified UAV that attempted to approach the Ain al-Assad air base in western Iraq, which was used in the recent past by US-led coalition forces.

Shia militias from Al-Hashd al-Shaabi, pro-Iranian armed organization, were attacked by IS militants on January 10 east of the city of Tikrit in Salah al-Din governorate. During the clash, a militia member was killed and three more were wounded. After the arrival of reinforcements, the attackers fled.

On January 13, one of the largest gas fields in Iraqi Kurdistan, Khor Mor, was once again shelled with rockets.

On January 16, Iraqi security forces announced that they had seized 1,400 kg of ammonium nitrate that was discovered in an IS hideout near the city of Huweija in Kirkuk governorate. The explosive chemical compound was seized during an operation conducted by the Iraqi Interior Ministry's Federal Intelligence and Investigation Agency.

On January 17, IS militants attacked an Iraqi military base west of Mosul, the capital of Ninewa governorate. The terrorists were identified using infrared surveillance cameras. Clashes broke out between the militants and the military, as a result two extremists were eliminated, and others were forced to leave the scene.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein stated on January 18 that “the terrorist menace comes not only from Iraq and not only from IS.” According to him, “in addition to IS, there are other extremist groups operating in Syria, which simply need to penetrate into Iraq.” In this regard, Baghdad believes that the Iraqi army in 2023 “will have to strengthen its military operations and control in the border and desert areas, especially along the border with Syria.”

On January 20, Iraqi Air Force planes attacked four hideouts of terrorist organizations near the city of Tuz-Khurmatu in Salah al-Din governorate, destroying the militants there.

On January 21, the Iraqi military destroyed a building with an IS militant inside in Kirkuk governorate.

On January 22, the Iraqi Air Force launched an airstrike on an IS terrorist hideout in Salah al-Din governorate on the border with Iraqi Kurdistan, killing 11 militants.

On January 24, the Iraqi military arrested six IS terrorists in Salah al-Din governorate. In addition, the Iraqi Joint Forces announced a security operation in areas south of the city of Samarra in the same governorate.

On January 25, the Iraqi Interior Ministry prevented a suicide attack involving three people near the city of Sinjar in Ninewa governorate.

In late January, the administration of Sinjar, which is predominantly populated by Yezidi Kurds, started registering individuals wishing to join the local police force “to replace external armed groups and restore security in the area.” This force is expected to be approximately 2,500 strong.

Al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias announced on January 28 that they had captured an IS fighter who was formerly the “master assassin” of the terrorist group in Baghdad. The fighter was captured by militia special forces in Anbar governorate, near the Al-Tahaddi checkpoint on the border with Syria. He led an IS assassination group in the so-called “North Baghdad Wilayat”. On the same day, the Iraqi Federal Intelligence Agency announced the arrest of five IS members in different districts of Kirkuk governorate.

The issues associated with the return and reintegration of former IS fighters and their families are still very complex. Currently, these individuals and their families are kept in the al-Hawl refugee camp in Syria under the control of US-backed Kurdish groups. The Iraqi government fears that such returnees will be able to set up “incubators” to regroup and come back to destabilize the country.

One of the acute problems facing the Iraqi authorities is to control the militias, which should be either disbanded or significantly reduced, possibly through their reintegration into government security forces. It should be noted that armed militias are regularly accused of exacerbating sectarian conflicts, non-complying with the instructions of the public security forces, threating to the government, attacking American military bases and soldiers from the countries of the international anti-terrorist coalition.

On January 15, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani advocated maintaining the presence of the US troops in the country to help eliminate the Islamic State. At the same time, Iraq, according to the Prime Minister, does not need foreign military units inside the country. Al-Sudani also said that he did not put forward a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

Source: Институт Ближнего Востока