The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) killed the head of a village and three farmers in the most recent attacks in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk province, a testament to the menace posed by the jihadist organization six months after Baghdad declared final victory over it, Kurdistan 24 learned from an anonymous source this week.
Kirkuk is part of the areas in the northern Iraq region disputed by Baghdad and semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
According to the Kurdish news outlet, security conditions have “significantly deteriorated” since Iraqi troops and Iranian-allied militiamen drove the Kurdish Peshmerga out of some of Kirkuk and the surrounding provinces in response to the KRG’s independence referendum in October of last year.
Kurdistan 24 reports:
In the past few months, the area has witnessed an upsurge in attacks and kidnappings by the jihadist group. … Peshmerga officials have repeatedly called for coordination with their Iraqi counterparts, warning officials that IS is regrouping in Kirkuk and neighboring southern provinces.
To boost the morale of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) struggling to “fight back the apparent resurgence of the militant group in the [northern Iraqi] provinces of Diyala, Kirkuk, and Salahuddin,” Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the region.
Referring to the chieftain of the Zirbani village of the al-Riyad sub-district that is part of Kirkuk’s al-Hawija district, the anonymous source told Kurdistan 24, “A week ago, they [ISIS] had abducted the man after which they had killed him and dumped his body.”
Kurdistan 24 explains:
The man was the successor of his father who IS had kidnapped and executed two months earlier, claiming he assisted the Iraqi government’s efforts to rid the country of the extremist organization, the source noted. The same source stated that three farmers had been killed recently due to a roadside-planted Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion in another part of the al-Riyad subdistrict, claiming IS seeks to weaken Iraqi Security Forces’ (ISF) mobility in the area.
ISIS jihadists also kidnapped and killed another village chieftain in the same area back in May, also for allegedly providing “aid to Iraqi security forces,” the news outlet adds.
At the end of last month, authorities in Salahuddin province found the “decomposing” bodies “strapped with explosive vests” of six members of Iraq’s security forces captured by ISIS, prompting PM Abadi to order the “immediate execution of all convicted jihadists on death row” estimated to number about 300, the Agence France-Press Agency (AFP) reported at the end of June.
In December, the Iraqi government claimed victory over ISIS, but U.S. and local officials acknowledge that the terrorist organization continues to pose a threat.
ISIS is reportedly planning and carrying out attacks in Iraq from ever-shrinking pockets along the Iraqi border with Syria.
The U.S.-led coalition and local forces have pushed ISIS onto smaller and smaller land holdings mainly in Syria, according to the Pentagon.
In Syria, ISIS holds small plots of land — along the border with Iraq up north as well as at and around the international boundary Syria shares with Jordan and Israel-occupied Golan Heights in the south.
The U.S.-led coalition continues to target ISIS “remnants … in designated parts of Iraq and Syria,” the American military reports.
U.S. military officials have long maintained that the coalition has liberated 98 percent of the territory seized by ISIS after it ose to prominence in 2014.
U.S. officials believe between 1,000 and 3,000 ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria.