ISIS attack on Iraqi army post kills officer and four soldiers

Security forces say they repelled the attack but suffered several casualties in the process

Mourners gather at the coffin of an Iraqi soldier killed in an attack in Najaf on Tuesday. Reuters
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An Iraqi army officer and four soldiers were killed in an attack in central Iraq launched by ISIS.

The attack took place late on Monday in a rural area between Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, the government said.

The area has been a hotbed of activity for militant cells years after Iraq declared victory over ISIS in 2017.

In a statement, the Iraqi Defence Ministry mourned the loss of Col Khalid Naji Wassak, a regiment commander, and “a number of heroic fighters … as a result of their response to a terrorist attack”.

Security forces repelled the attack but suffered several casualties in the process.

Maj Gen Tahseen Al Khafaji, spokesman for Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, later said four soldiers were killed alongside Col Wassak, with five wounded.

In a statement on a Telegram channel, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it assailed the barracks with machineguns and grenades.

In the summer of 2014, ISIS overran large parts of Iraq and Syria, declaring a caliphate that spanned areas of both countries.

Iraqi forces, backed by a US-led international coalition, reclaimed all ISIS-held territory in Iraq in late 2017, after three years of fighting.

However, the terrorist group still carries out hit-and-run attacks, particularly in the vast desert regions of northern and western Iraq, near the border with Syria.

Still a threat

The attack serves as a reminder that ISIS still poses a threat, said the UK ambassador to Iraq, Stephen Hitchen.

“Every day, the bases of stability grow stronger in Iraq,” Mr Hitchen said on X.

The attack will not halt that progress but is a reminder that the threat endures, he said.

In a report published in January, the UN said there were “between 3,000 and 5,000" ISIS fighters across Iraq and Syria.

Baghdad is now looking to reduce the US-led international coalition that helped to defeat ISIS and wants it to remain in the country in an advisory role, saying local security forces can handle the threat themselves.

Despite the heavy losses the group suffered in Syria in 2019, the militants are still active and continue launching attacks.

Last month, ISIS opened fire on a military bus in the eastern countryside of Homs province, killing at least 28 Syrian soldiers and pro-government fighters.

In January, the group claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings in Iran as thousands of mourners gathered to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the death of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani.

At least 91 people were killed and about 300 wounded in the attack.

Updated: May 15, 2024, 5:08 AM