Senior Iraqi intelligence officer assassinated in Baghdad

This is the latest in a wave of targeted killings that has swept the country in recent years

People chant slogans as they march with the body of renowned Iraqi anti-government activist Ihab al-Wazni (Ehab al-Ouazni) during a funerary procession in the central holy shrine city of Karbala on May 9, 2021 following his assassination. - Wazni, a coordinator of protests in the Shiite shrine city of Karbala, was a vocal opponent of corruption, the stranglehold of Tehran-linked armed groups and Iran's influence in Iraq. He was shot overnight outside his home by men on motorbikes, in an ambush caught on surveillance cameras. He had narrowly escaped death in December 2019, when men on motorbikes used silenced weapons to kill fellow activist Fahem al-Tai as he was dropping him home in Karbala, where pro-Tehran armed groups are legion. (Photo by Mohammed SAWAF / AFP)

A senior Iraqi intelligence officer was shot dead near his home east of Baghdad on Monday, according to state media.

This is the latest in a wave of targeted killings that has swept the country in recent years.

Col Nebras Shaban was assistant director of the Intelligence Service’s Monitoring Department, according to local news reports.

“Unidentified gunmen opened fire on the officer in the Al Baladiyat area, east of Baghdad early on Monday. He died immediately,” Iraq’s state-run National Iraqi News Agency said quoting a security source.

The assassination is a desperate "attempt to disturb the agency from performing its national duty," the intelligence service said in a statement.

Col Shaban is an "example to be followed for having a prominent role in fighting terrorism and organized crime throughout his years of service", it said.

"His blood will be a beacon for retribution against criminals who are attempting to rob and weaken the Iraqi state," according to the statement.

An investigation has been started by the appropriate authorities.

In March, another senior intelligence officer was assassinated in the Iraqi capital.

Gunmen carrying a pistol fitted with a silencer assassinated Lt Col Mahmoud Laith Hussein in Baghdad's western neighbourhood of Mansour.

The gunman shot Hussein in the head after running up to him from behind and kicking him in the leg; he was wearing a white cap, according to CCTV footage.

The officer worked at the Intelligence Service Counter-Espionage Department.

Targeted killing is not a new phenomenon in Iraq. The country has witnessed dozens of high-profile assassinations since operations against ISIS and other extremist groups were launched.

Some militias, which are backed by Iran, have accused Iraq’s intelligence services of collaborating with the US forces against them.

Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, was killed in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport after landing from Syria in January 2020.

Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis was also killed in the operation.

The killing of Col Abu Ali comes as Iraq’s military intensifies its battle against the remnants of ISIS, despite its formal defeat in 2017.

Iraq's military along with the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces have launched a joint operation in the north of the country to find ISIS militants as well as hidden bases, tunnels and caches of weaponry.

ISIS seized a third of Iraqi territory in 2014. Iraqi security forces, with the assistance of a US-led multinational coalition and Iran-backed paramilitary forces, managed to retake territory from the terror group until it was declared defeated in 2017, months after the capture of its stronghold in Mosul.

The group has since waged a steady insurgency across parts of northern Iraq and a porous border with neigbouring Syria.

In recent months there has been an increase in deadly attacks that officials attribute to ISIS.

The January bombing of a crowded Baghdad market killed more than 30 people and injured at least 100 others. The bombers blew themselves up among a crowd of shoppers at a second-hand clothes market in the capital's Tayaran Square.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, which has become rare in the capital since its defeat.

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