IS increases activity in Iraq during Ramzan, COVID-19 crisis

Baghdad, May 10 (IANS) The Islamic State (IS) terror group has increased activities in Iraq amid the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramzan and also the deployment of military to implement measures against the coronavirus pandmic.

Iraqi security forces have recorded seven attacks during Ramzan, which began on April 23, according to the official Security Media Cell, although other sources raised the tally to over 30, reports Efe news.

The Joint Operations Command spokesperson, Tahsin al-Khafaji, told Efe news on Saturday that the IS has attacked security forces and infrastructure, although he denied any “invasion”.

It is a “guerrilla war” rather than a “Ramzan invasion” or a regroup attempt, he added.

On April 23, Iraqi Defense Minister Najeh al-Shamri said there was “an increase in the terror operations recently”.

The spike came amid as the focus of military and security forces shifted to the coronavirus lockdown.

It also coincides with the withdrawal of the US-led International Coalition amid increasing tension with pro-Iranian militias after the killing of the Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad on January 3.

“The organization is very weak and it is trying to take advantage of any situation in order to affect and confuse the security situation,” he added.

Furthermore, he added that Abdullah Qardash, who is thought to be the IS leader in Iraq, “raised the morale of the terrorist organization”.

“Qardash is trying to establish his presence by launching many operations, raising the morale of the organization and proving his loyalty to terrorist organization and this is another reason that we mentioned for the return of terrorist operations,” he said.

The security forces have attacked the organization's hideout in “the desert, valleys, mountains or islands in the Tigris River”, he added.

One of the most recent operations was launched by the security forces in the wake of two separate attacks on the majority-Shia militia of the Popular Mobilization Forces in the Saladin province on May 2.

A total of 11 militiamen were killed, according to Major Amar Gasem from the Saladin operation command.

For Myles B. Caggins III, the spokesman for the US-led coalition, the spike in IS action is a reaction to the operations security forces have been carried out.

“IS claims a higher number of attacks in recent weeks; some of this is due to the Iraqi Security Forces direct action against IS hideouts in the mountainous regions and rural areas in north central Iraq and Anbar Province,” he told Efe news.

“A whole host of Iraqi Security Forces including, Federal Police, Counter-Terrorism Service, Iraqi Army and Peshmerga, supported by Iraqi aviation and the international Coalition are thumping IS wherever they pop up,” he added.



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