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IS attack kills 10 Iraqi fighters north of Baghdad

The overnight attack by Islamic State was the deadliest in months, as the militant group's sleeper cells grow bolder
A file photo taken on 31 December 2019 shows Iraqis attending the funeral procession in Baghdad of Hashed al-Shaabi fighters who were killed in US air strikes on a base in western Iraq near Al-Qaim (AFP)

Overnight attacks by the Islamic State group on stations of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi forces north of Baghdad killed 10 paramilitaries, security forces said on Saturday, in the deadliest operation by the militant group's sleeper cells in months.

The militants attacked Hashed al-Shaabi fighters stationed outside a town in the Salahuddin province early on Saturday, according to a statement by Iraq's security forces.

"Six fighters were killed. As another unit was dispatched to reinforce them, an explosive device detonated on that convoy and killed three fighters," the statement said.

A separate IS attack on a nearby unit killed a 10th fighter of Hashd al-Shaabi, a network of armed groups that played a major role in defeating Islamic State. It was later incorporated into the regular army chain of command.

"All the Iraqi security forces manning the checkpoint were killed. F16 planes are flying overhead to search for the IS fighters," a security source told AFP. 

After Iraq declared its defeat of IS in late 2017, the remnants of the militant group resorted to hit-and-run attacks on security forces in remote areas of the north and west. 

Saturday’s attack was the deadliest operation by IS sleeper cells in Iraq in months.

AFP quoted Sam Heller, an independent analyst focused on IS and Iraq, as saying that the group has grown bolder over the past month, noting the increase in direct assaults on security forces, some during daytime.

Last week, the militants claimed a suicide attack that wounded four outside an intelligence headquarters in the northern province of Kirkuk.