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Rudaw

Iraq

Iraqi counter-terror forces begin operation against ISIS in northern mountains

By Rudaw 11/4/2019
Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, the commander of the ICTS, is shown in this photo posted on April 11, 2019. Photo: Iraq Protectors Twitter
Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, the commander of the ICTS, is shown in this photo posted on April 11, 2019. Photo: Iraq Protectors Twitter
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Two brigades of the elite Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces (ICTS) commenced an operation to drive Islamic State (ISIS) remnants out of a mountain range in the north of the country on Thursday, destroying a media office of the extremist group.

"...the sectors of the Counter-Terrorism forces, supported by Iraqi Army aviation and international coalition aviation, initiated a broad security operation to chase the remnant members of the terrorist Daesh in the hills of Hamrin to destroy the caves and their safe havens," read a statement by the Security Media Cell on Facebook. 

The operation was green lit by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the country's commander-in-chief, according to the media cell.

In the operation, “The headquarters of al-Naba newspaper – affiliated with terrorist ISIS gangs – was destroyed and a number of issues of the newspaper as well as printers, computers, and significant documents were found,” the ICTS announced Thursday evening. 


The ICTS display items discovered in an operation against ISIS militants in the Hamrin mountains on April 11, 2019. Photo: ICTS

By controlling the Hamrin area — some 160 kilometers north of Baghdad and 70 kilometers south of Kirkuk — ISIS has continued to launch attacks into nearby towns.

ICTS confirmed on its Facebook page that two of its divisions were participating in the offensive "to destroy all the caves and safe havens..." 

Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, the commander of the ICTS, was said to be in charge of the operation that included two of his brigades. 

 


Through the ISIS conflict, the US-trained ICTS spearheaded liberations of cities and towns.

ISIS was declared defeated in Iraq in December 2017 by then PM Haider al-Abadi, but the group’s sleeper cells continue to pose a security threat in disputed or Kurdistani areas between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces. 

The US-led international spokesperson confirmed to Rudaw English that it "conducted strikes" in support of Iraqi forces near the Hamrin Mountains.

"Following their territorial defeat, we are focused on enabling local security forces to contain and defeat Daesh threats," US Army Col. Scott Rawlinson, the spokesperson for the coalition, told Rudaw English on Friday.


"Daesh is transitioning into disaggregate cells, each having the capacity to gather resources and the ability to conduct terrorist activities," he added, using another term for ISIS.


Additionally, there have been reports of ISIS members fleeing from Syria into western Iraq’s Anbar province.

Hamrin, located between the frontlines of Iraqi and Peshmerga forces, has allowed elements to regroup. It is a disputed or Kurdistani area claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.


Locals have repeatedly told Rudaw that ISIS remains active in the area, stealing, kidnapping, and killing. The lack of security is a contributing factor for the continued displacement of some 1.2 million Iraqis.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) proclaimed ISIS defeated in Syria on March 23 after Operation Jazira Storm completed in the Middle Euphrates River Valley town of al-Baghouz.


Updated at 4:27 p.m., April 12

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