Iraq launches major anti-ISIS operation after killings

BAGHDAD • Iraqi forces launched a major operation against remnants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant group yesterday, following public anger over the militants' murder of a group of abducted civilians.

The operation will see the army, special forces, police and Kurdish peshmerga fighters hunting down ISIS cells in the centre of the country, Iraq's Joint Operations Command (JOC) said in a statement.

It comes after the bodies of eight ISIS captives were found late last month on a highway north of Baghdad. Some of the abductees had appeared in a video in which ISIS threatened to execute them unless Baghdad released female prisoners.

The JOC statement said the army, federal police, special forces, peshmerga fighters and the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force had launched "a vast operation to clear out the region east of the Diyala-Kirkuk" highway.

The operation was being supported by the Iraqi air force and the United States-led coalition that intervened against ISIS in Iraq and Syria after the militants seized control of large parts of both countries in 2014. One militant had already been killed and eight captured, the JOC said, and equipment including vehicles and bombs destroyed.

The operation marked the first time that federal Iraqi forces and the peshmerga were working together since clashes following last year's Kurdish independence referendum.

Iraq declared victory over ISIS last December after expelling the militants from all major towns and cities in a vast offensive. But the Iraqi military has kept up operations targeting the militants, mostly in remote desert areas.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed to avenge the eight civilians killed by ISIS and ordered the execution of hundreds of convicted militants.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Iraq launches major anti-ISIS operation after killings'. Print Edition | Subscribe