Six soldiers and four civilians perished on Saturday evening in an ambush by jihadists about 200 kilometers north of Baghdad, according to police sources. The province of Salahaddin decreed, Sunday, November 22, three days of mourning, while some denounce the inability of Iraqi forces to eliminate the clandestine cells of the Islamic State (IS) group.
Three years after the announcement of the victory over IS, the mode of operation chosen remains sketchy: a bomb placed on the roadside exploded when a civilian car passed by and when police officers and members of Hachd Al-Chaabi – coalition of paramilitaries now integrated into the state – came to their rescue, they came under fire from jihadists.
Eleven Iraqis, including Hashd fighters, were killed ten days ago in a grenade attack on a military post at the western entrance to Baghdad. Heavy balance sheets in a country that has not experienced a major attack for at least three years. All these attacks took place in the great Sunni belt around the capital, where Iraqi troops regularly carry out search operations and each time claim to have managed to dislodge many jihadists.
“Repeated failures of the fight against terrorism”
For Jamal Al-Dhari, a Sunni politician interviewed by Agence France-Presse, this ambush “Highlights the repeated failures of the fight against terrorism, the government of Moustafa Al-Kazimi must seriously implement a national strategy (…) and stop being satisfied with commissions of inquiry ”, that the authorities announce to create after each incident.
According to Sunni deputy Mechaane Al-Joubouri, the jihadists are taking advantage of the rugged geography of the mountainous and desert area to maintain their clandestine cells. When the death toll was still nine dead – the tenth succumbed to his injuries early Sunday in hospital – he tweeted: “We have lost nine martyrs (…) at the foot of Mount Makhoul that the Iraqi forces claimed a few days ago to have cleaned. “
These attacks come as Washington has announced that it will soon withdraw 500 troops, leaving only 2,500 in Iraq. Almost all of the troops from other member states of the anti-ISIS coalition left the country at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.