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Iraq: 17 military personnel killed in multiple night-time raids

Attacks in line with style of Islamic State group, which still has sleeper cells in country despite its 2017 territorial defeat
A Peshmerga fighter near Mosul in the Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region on 7 March 2021. Six Peshmerga were among those reportedly killed by IS in latest attacks, according to sources (AFP)

Eighteen Iraqis, the majority military personnel, were killed overnight Friday to Saturday in separate attacks by militants, mainly in the greater Baghdad area, security sources told AFP.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, but they were in line with the modus operandi of the Islamic State (IS) group, which still has sleeper cells in Iraq despite its territorial defeat in 2017.

One attack targetted troops in Tarmiya, an agricultural suburb 20km north of the Iraqi capital.

"IS fighters attacked an Iraqi army convoy at night and killed two officers and two soldiers," a security official said, on condition of anonymity. 

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Reinforcements were sent to the area but also came under fire, with "an officer and two soldiers" killed, the source said.

A member of tribal fighters integrated into the regular forces that were then deployed to the scene was also killed, "along with a civilian caught in the crossfire," the source added.

Further north, in the central Alton Kubre region, "six peshmerga [Kurdish fighters] were killed when IS group jihadists attacked their military position with light arms," another security official told AFP.

Alton Kubre is a disputed area claimed by both the federal government in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan authorities. 

Another attack took place in the western desert bordering Syria, a third security source said. 

"An officer and a soldier were killed in a bomb explosion while an army convoy was en route to Akashat," he said.

A soldier was also killed in a bomb blast in Diyala province, which borders Baghdad to the east, according to another official, who added that two other fighters were also wounded in a separate attack.

Sleeper cells

Iraq in late 2017 declared victory over IS, which had overrun large areas of the country and neighbouring Syria three years earlier.

However, sleeper cells holed up in mountains and deserts continue to carry out deadly attacks across the country, often at night in remote areas and with light weapons.

Following the latest attacks, Iraqi President Barham Salih called in a tweet for continued "effective international support to eradicate terror across the region".

A US-led military coalition has been in Iraq since 2014 to help fight IS, but a vote in parliament last year called for the departure of all foreign troops from the country. 

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