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File photo: AFP

Rudaw: ISIS attacks kill 70 in disputed territories since January: Kurdish official

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region -The Islamic State terror group (ISIS) has carried out 85 attacks in disputed areas claimed by Erbil and Baghdad in the past four months, a top Peshmerga official said on Saturday.

“Daesh (ISIS) activities are on the rise day by day, in which they have carried out 85 terrorist activities in the past four months, killing 70 people and wounding 161 others,” Jabar Yawar, chief of staff of the Peshmerga Affairs Ministry, told Rudaw on Saturday.

Yawar told Rudaw English that those killed include Kurdish Peshmerga forces, Iraqi Army soldiers, Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi or Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) as well as Iraqi Federal Police members.

The extremist group abducted 41 other people for ransom during the period, he added.

“The bulk of those kidnapped are civilians from affluent families and [are] ambushed in remote areas by the militants,” Yawar said.

He said that the majority of the attacks were launched in April.

“This is evidence that their activities increase month by month,” he added.

According to Yawar, talks with the Iraqi Army to find a solution to fill the security void in large parts of the disputed territories “have not borne fruit”.

“We have given them two suggestions; either we protect the security of these areas or we do it jointly with the Iraqi government,” the chief of staff said, saying the Iraqi army has turned down both ideas.

“The Iraqi government is neither capable of protecting the security of the disputed areas nor do they let us do it,” he added.

The territories disputed by the two governments are comprised of areas in Nineveh and the entire provinces of Kirkuk, Saladin, and Diyala.  An absence of security forces in the area has created a fertile breeding ground for ISIS to regroup. 

Between January 1 and April 15, the ISF carried out 1,060 operations and killed 135 ISIS targets, Iraqi defense ministry spokesperson Yehia Rasool said last week. 

Iraq declared military victory over ISIS in December 2017, but the group has remained a threat, returning to insurgency tactics of ambushes, kidnappings, executions of suspected informants, and extortion from vulnerable rural populations.

Ten members of the PMF were killed in an ISIS attack in Saladin province on Friday night. multiple attacks against Iraqi forces in Saladin province, killing 10 members of the PMF. 

In recent weeks, ISIS militants have  launched a new wave of attacks on Iraqi and Kurdish security forces who are part of government efforts to enforce COVID-19-related lockdowns.

ISIS has urged its followers to exploit the global pandemic and step up attacks.

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