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Sat, 18 Jan 2020 06:14 GMT

Isis' Ambushes Jeopardise Iraq's Fragile Security

Counterterrorism & Security

7Dnews London

Sat, 09 Nov 2019 16:20 GMT

Amid the growing tension in Iraq due to the anti-government protests there also were terrorist attacks on Friday November 8th in Iraq. Rockets have been reportedly attacking an Iraqi air base near Mosul, accompanied by two separate Isis ambushes in the same city. Adding to this, other rocket attacks have been fired near the US Embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad.

Security experts expected that after the US declared the death of Isis leader al-Baghdadi, coupled with the unrest in Iraq caused by the protests, both circumstances would lead to activating Isis' sleeper cells, to exploit the fragile security measures in the country.

Iraqi security officials told AP that a barrage of 17 Katyusha rockets targeted an Iraqi air base that houses American troops south of Mosul. No members of the US-led coalition troops were injured on Friday November 8th. “The rocket fire appears to have originated in Mosul and struck the Iraqi army base in Qayyara, about 60 kilometres (38 miles) south of Mosul, where coalition forces are helping the Iraqis battle remnants of Isis group,” Iraqi officials said on condition of anonymity.

 A coalition spokeswoman later said no coalition troops had been injured. "Coalition forces are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq to defeat Isis remnants," US Marine Corps Captain Marisa Roberts said. "We will not be deterred by these attacks and maintain the right to defend ourselves."

Mosul, which was largely destroyed during the war against the Isis terrorist group in the last five years, lies north of Baghdad and has not seen any anti-government protests, but also witnessed this Friday November 8th, two separate attacks by Isis operatives on an army checkpoint in Nineveh province, near the Syrian border (120 km northwest of Mosul), " killing a border guard and wounding three others before fleeing," said Captain Ahmed al-Obeidi, of Nineveh police.

Al-Obeidi told the local press that, "Isis operatives also killed today two members of the tribal Hashd militias (who are helping Iraqi forces in fighting Isis fighters) in an ambush they set for them in the urban district (90 km southwest of Mosul).”

Future Direction of Isis

 Despite Iraq announced victory over Isis two years ago, the terrorist group is still active, through sleeper cells, and frequently mount attacks on Iraqi security forces. Last October, Isis attacked two security checkpoints in the Allas oilfields in the northern province of Salah al-Din, killing two Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi army said in a statement reported by Reuters.

Counter-terrorism experts have expressed concern over the duality of security threats in Iraq at the moment, embodied on the one hand by the spread of Isis fighters to Nineveh, Kirkuk, Diyala, Al- Anbar, and Salahaddin, and on the other hand, by Iraqi militias loyal to Iran, who have recently threatened to carry out attacks against Americans in the country. These militias are mainly composed of pre-existing sectarian armed groups that were active in the 2003-2011 timeframe, such as the Badr Organization, Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

Aymenn al-Tamimi, a researcher at Swansea University in the US, focusing on Isis, said that Baghdadi's death is likely to cause Isis to splinter, leaving whoever emerges as its new leader with the task of pulling the group back together as a fighting force. "They are (Isis group) trying to send the message, 'don't think you have destroyed the project just because you have killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the official spokesman," Tamimi said, explaining Isis' posting dozens of claims of attacks in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, since Baghdadi's death.

 Tamimi referred in his analysis to an Isis spokesman addressing the U S in a recorded video, after Baghdadi's death, in which the spokesman promised a severe war of attrition against the US.

Tamimi said it was expected that Isis will resort more to guerrilla attacks in many provinces in Iraq, specifically in Nineveh, and its capital Mosul, in which five years ago, Baghdadi declared himself the leader of Isis over millions of people in Syria and Iraq.

An extended report published recently by the American Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and which dealt with the return of Isis sleeper cells in the Levant, specifically in Iraq. The report outlined that Isis’s strategy is intended to exploit the Iraqi people’s distrust of the Iraqi government, for its inability to make them feel safe. The targeted killings, particularly of village mayors, coupled with the destruction of crops, have caused mass civilian displacement, sometimes of entire villages in provinces north of Baghdad.

According to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), which monitors Isis sleeper cells, about 338 attacks by Isis fighters resulting in 682 fatalities took place in different parts in Iraq, from the beginning of 2019 till last July.

Middle East