The Islamic State (ISIS) terror group continues to pose a security threat in areas of northern Iraq disputed between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan region, a leader of Kurdistan’s Peshmerga military said on Tuesday.
“We have said this many times, ISIS is still a threat to the region because of the terrorist attacks they conduct,” the secretary-general of Peshmerga’s Ministry of Affairs Jabar Yawar told the Kurdish news agency Rudaw on Tuesday.
“What ISIS lost in 2017 when then-Prime Minister of Iraq Haidar al-Abadi announced their defeat, was only their alleged caliphate, however, ISIS is still out there conducting attacks,” he added.
“In January alone, ISIS has conducted 14 attacks and 150 people have been killed and injured,” Yawar noted.
Security gaps in the region stemming from territorial disputes between Iraq’s national government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have allowed ISIS to stage a resurgence in the area in recent months, the Peshmerga leader said.
ISIS seized control of large swathes of land across Syria and Iraq in 2014. Iraq declared the group territorially defeated in 2017, while Syria reclaimed most of its territory from ISIS in 2019. Militants associated with the group remain active on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, however, and have recently ramped up regional attacks.
ISIS claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing in Baghdad’s Tayaran Square on January 21 that killed at least 32 people. The Iraqi state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) announced a military offensive against ISIS in response to the bombing days later, killing three ISIS leaders within a week of the operation’s launch, including Abu Yaser al-Issawi on January 27. An ISIS commander, Assawi referred to himself as the terror group’s deputy caliph.
The Kurdistan Regional Government announced on February 3 that it had recently deployed Peshmerga forces to northern Iraq to bolster the region against “increased threats” from Islamic State. The KRG clarified that although it sent Peshmerga forces to regions of Iraq disputed between Baghdad and Kurdistan, the soldiers posed no threat to Iraqi state forces.
“We announce that no illegal deployment of the Peshmerga forces has been made to face Iraqi forces,” a statement from the Ministry of Peshmerga read, adding, “What happened was as a result of a recent increase of ISIS threats in the Mount Qarachogh and Makhmour areas.”
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) arrested two people accused of “smuggling” ISIS members between Iraq and Syria on February 8 as part of its own recently launched military campaign against the jihadist group.
“Our forces and the global coalition carried out a joint operation against a Daesh [ISIS] sleeper cell in the Tal Manikh region in al-Shaddadi on February 8, arresting two people responsible for transferring Daesh terrorists between Iraq and Syria,” an SDF statement read. It is unclear if the people arrested are members of ISIS.