Iraqi tanks deploy in the village of Bashir, south of Kirkuk, Iraq, Oct. 13, 2017. File photo: Emad Matti | AP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) warned of unchecked attacks by ISIS in the disputed areas of Iraq during October, including the use of vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIEDs) and targeting high-level local leaders.
"Tracked security incidents from October signal a reemergence of VBIED-based attacks in Kirkuk and Mosul. Targeted assassinations against mokhtars and attacks on electricity infrastructure continued unabated. #ISIS," tweeted the KRSC on Sunday.
The KRSC is the Region's top security body and headed by Masrour Barzani. His warnings come nearly a year after then Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi declared ISIS defeated in Iraq in early December.
Most of the incidents tracked occurred in disputed or Kurdistani areas between Nineveh, Saladin, and Kirkuk provinces.
"At least 5 VBIED attacks targeted security forces and civilians, and 2 others defused. On 13th, in Mamdouda neighborhood, Kirkuk, a VBIED injured 6 individuals. On 23rd, a VBIED struck in Gayyara, killing more than 10 and injuring up to 30 others," read another KRSC tweet.
Iraqi Security Forces have held the security portfolio for the disputed areas since the events of October 2017 which saw a Peshmerga withdraw amid a federal takeover that included traditional Iraqi Army units supported by Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries.
VBIED attacks were a hallmark tactic of ISIS in the conflict that began in 2014. Both the Kurdistan Region's Peshmerga and Kurdish fighters in Syria lacked shoulder-fired missile launchers at the start of the campaign. Officially, all arms support to the Peshmerga has to go through Baghdad which was concerned with supplying heavier weapons to the Kurdish forces.
The KRSC also noted assassinations of village mukhtars and chiefs in Hawija (Kirkuk), Khanaqin and Jasmiya (Diyala).
"On 2nd, ISIS carried out a multi-pronged attack in Rabza village, Hawija, killing the village chief. On 10th, ISIS fighters assassinated the mokhtar of Jasmiya village in his home. On 20th, the mokhtar in Karim Daoud village, Khanaqin, was also killed," it tweeted.
ISIS also targeted infrastructure and units of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
"At least 40 IED incidents were tracked with most against vehicles, police checkpoints, military posts, PMF bases and figures, as well as civilians. On 20th, an IED targeted a Federal Police vehicle on Kirkuk-Hawija Road, injuring several policemen," added the statement.
ISF have been most actively pursuing ISIS elements in western Anbar province.
Brig. Gen. General Yahya Rasul, the spokesperson for Iraqi Joint Operations, tweeted nearly daily reports of security incidents in October. Most were in Kirkuk, Diyala, Saladin, Nineveh, Baghdad, and Anbar provinces.
A lapse in border security allowed the group to cross from Syria to Iraq in early 2014, so maintaining it has been a focus as millions of displaced Iraqis return to their areas.
"Following extensive efforts by our security forces in the Jazira Operations Command in clearing areas tainted by terrorist gangs, the aforementioned forces of the command secured the return of 116 families who had been displaced in the Aamirya camp in Fallujah and the tourist city to their area of residence in the al-Obeidi area and al-Qaim district," he tweeted on Saturday, referring to Anbar province.
Some 20,000-30,000 Hashd fighters deployed to the border areas following the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announcing a temporary halt in their Operation Roundup because many of their home cities were coming under assault by Turkey.
"Our security forces accompanied these families and provided facilitation, besides providing them with water, food and medicine. The returning families, on their part, expressed gratitude and appreciation to the security forces in the Jazira Operations Command, praying to Allah that security and safety continue across the country," added Rasul.
According to the International Organization for Migration's figures through October, more than 1.86 million Iraqis remain displaced.
Kurdistani parties have asked to head the Kirkuk Police Department. The Peshmerga have conducted joint operations with the ISF in coordination with the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition in Saladin, and local officials in Shingal are in negotiations over control of the Yezidi homeland with the former Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-led administration.