Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL/IS) jihadists killed at least 17 people and injured 28 others in Baghdad, a testament to the ongoing threat it poses to Iraq despite the dramatic losses it has suffered at the hands of the U.S.-led coalition and its local allies.
“Iraqi security officials say IS is likely to wage an insurgency after its self-proclaimed caliphate collapsed and its militants were dislodged from territories they held in the country,” reports Middle East Eye (MEE).
The Iraqi Interior Ministry confirmed Monday’s attack, noting “two terrorist suicide attackers” indiscriminately shot several civilians in southeast Baghdad’s Nahrawan before one blew himself up and the security forces killed the other.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the heinous act via its Amaq news agency, alleging its jihadists killed 35 fighters from the Iraqi government-sanctioned umbrella organization predominantly made up of Iranian-backed Shiite militias — the Hashd al-Shaabi, Arabic for the Popular Mobilization Forces/Units (PMF/PMU).
However, MEE learned from local media reports that the jihadist group killed 17 people and wounded 28 others.
An unnamed Iraqi government official reportedly said that Sunni ISIS did target Shiite PMF fighters during the attack.
The PMF has been combating ISIS alongside U.S.-backed troops in Iraq.
Although the U.S. military has praised the Shiite militiamen’s contribution to the fight against ISIS, the Republican-led Congress is considering a proposed bipartisan bill to designate at least two PMF units — Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba — as terrorist groups and give President Donald Trump 90 days to impose sanctions on them.
The proposal has prompted high-ranking PMF members to threaten the U.S. military presence in Iraq.
Abdullatif al-Amidi, the commander of the PMF faction Saraya al-Ashura, recently warned, “The U.S. has become our direct enemy after the Congress’ decision against some Hashd al-Shaabi factions.”
The Shiite militia leader urged American troops to immediately withdraw from Iraq because “they have now become a target for our forces.”
PMF fighters have repeatedly threatened U.S. troops since they returned to Iraq to combat ISIS.
In December 2012, the Institute for the Study of War revealed that the PMU’s AAH faction claimed responsibility for more than 6,000 attacks on U.S. troops between 2006 and 2011.
According to experts, currently between 100,000 and 120,000 PMF fighters are in Iraq.