Days after Iraqi security authorities launched Operation Abtal al-Iraq (Heroes of Iraq) to achieve security and establish control, the country’s counterterrorism agency announced that it had a complete database of ISIS remnants.
In December 2017, the Iraqi authorities announced the liberation of all its lands from ISIS, after nearly three and a half years of battling the terrorist organization that occupied about a third of the country.
The Iraqi forces have also achieved all of their goals in the eight phases of Operation Will of Victory, which was launched on July 7, 2019, to purge the desert areas linking the provinces of Nineveh, Salahuddin and Anbar, up to the international border with Syria in the northwestern part of the country.
According to the official Iraqi News Agency (INA), Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) spokesman Sabah Al-Numan said on Sunday, February 16, that the CTS strategy deals with how to take advantage of the efforts of ministries and other agencies to spread a culture of awareness to prevent terrorism. He added that the CTS has a large database of terrorists inside the country, which has become a source that also benefits other regional and international security services. He also stressed that the coming days will witness specific operations in targeting hideouts and pursuing terrorists.
The CTS announced on Saturday, February 15, that its forces managed to kill 10 ISIS militants during an airstrike in the Hamrin area of Diyala Governorate in the country’s east.
The first phase of Operation Abtal al-Iraq, which started on Wednesday, February 12, targeted an area of 26,238 square kilometers and included the participation of the security services in the country.
The operation resulted in the discovery of five hideouts, 25 explosive devices, mortars, seven SPG-9 rockets, two motorcycles, ammunition, C4, nine anti-tank missiles, an explosive belt, and more.
Fear of increasing the number of militants
The number of ISIS militants in Iraq until mid-2019 reached nearly 18,000, while in 2014 they numbered about 10,000, according to Pentagon statistics.
According to a report published by the Iraqi Alsumaria news agency, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, who coordinated with the international coalition fighting ISIS, attributed the main reason for the increase in the number of ISIS militants to the current state of tension between the United States and Iran, which has distracted attention from the operations carried out by the organization. He noted that the confrontation between the two countries has had a negative impact on the war against terrorism and against ISIS, which should be a priority for all.
The Insider website reported on Monday, February 17, that ISIS is stronger than it was in 2014, noting that the organization currently has more fighters than it had when it announced the establishment of its alleged caliphate, in addition to millions of dollars at its disposal.
Barzani said that, after losing a large number of its leaders and men, ISIS recruited a number of militants and still has about 20,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.
On Sunday, February 16, Iraq’s Security Media Cell announced the arrest of three ISIS terrorists in Anbar and Kirkuk.