Iraqi army launches an operation against ISIS sleeper cells
Operation in the western desert area, along the border with Syria. Renamed "Desire for victory", soldiers, paramilitary units, tribal groups and coalition fighters participate. The government has armed Shiite groups in the northern province of Nineveh to repel jihadist attacks.
Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Iraqi army has launched a new operation yesterday to ensure the security of the western desert area of the country, along the border with Syria. The objective is to clean the area from "sleeper" cells of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis), which could exploit the territory - vast and difficult to control - to regroup and launch new attacks in the country.
Analysts and experts have repeatedly pointed out that the "Caliphate" has not been completely defeated and its members have changed the way they operate, focusing on guerrilla warfare, to revive the jihad. An alarm already launched previously by the Iraqi Church, according to which the military defeat has not eradicated the extremist ideology, which remains a threat.
According to a report by the military, the operation renamed "Desire for victory" started in the early hours of yesterday and intends to free the remote area of territory between the provinces of Salahaddin, Ninive and Anbar. The initiative is being carried out by elements of the Iraqi armed forces, pro-Shiite paramilitary units of Hashed al-Shaabi, tribal groups (Sunnis) and fighters of the international US-led coalition.
Towards the end of 2017, Baghdad declared the formal victory against the Islamic state, after driving out the jihadists from their stronghold, Mosul (capital of the northern province of Nineveh), long considered the heart of the "Caliphate". In March, the group also lost the last parcel of territory in Syria, in a desert area not far from the border with Iraq.
However, lone wolves and dormant IS cells have been able to strike repeatedly with "hit and run" attacks in remote and isolated areas, targeting government checkpoints, public infrastructure and local officials. Security forces responded by targeting sensitive objectives of the jihadist movement, focusing on the Hamrin region, north of Baghdad.
In May, the authorities decided to arm tribal forces scattered in several dozen villages in the province of Nineveh, to defend the territory from jihadist attacks.