Iraqi security forces prevented terrorist attacks and killed a high-ranking IS member

by Giuliano Bifolchi

The recent arrest of a terrorist group in Baghdad and the elimination of a high-ranking Islamic State member in Diyala province highlighted how terrorism is a permanent threat in Iraq despite all the efforts that local forces have made.

On June 22nd, 2021, the Head of the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (ICTS), Lieutenant General Abdel-Wahab al-Saadi, informed the media that Iraqi security forces thwarted a series of major terrorist attacks following the capture of a militant group in Baghdad. Three people believed to be members of the Islamic State (IS) from Syria were captured near the Baghdad River in operation based on intelligence provided by the Iraqi Intelligence service.

According to local sources, the group was preparing explosives for several major attacks in crowded markets in the centre and south of Baghdad. In a separate statement, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said that following the capture of militants, police launched a search operation in the streets of Baghdad to locate explosive devices or suspicious objects.

On the same day, the Diyala Police Spokesperson, Nihad Mohammed, reported the assassination of a high-ranking Islamic State member, Usama Ali Hussein, known as Abu Balinjar, during a security operation in Diyala province.

Why this matters? Because although the 2020 Global Terrorism Index reveals Iraq registered a decline in terror-related deaths for the third consecutive year in 2019, with less than a thousand deaths recorded for the first time since the US invasion in 2003, terrorism is still a serious issue in the country and the Islamic State represent the main terrorist groups involved in violent attacks that caused 66% of all death in Iraq in 2019. Certainly, even though the Islamic State has been ‘officially’ defeated in Iraq after the fall of its stronghold in Mosul, jihadist propaganda and foreign fighters are among the main problems in the country.

In this context, it is possible to interpret the recent meeting that occurred on June 21st, 2021, between the Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan Masroor Barzani and the United States Ambassador to Iraq Matthew Tewler in Erbil to discuss further support for the US-led International Coalition for the Peshmerga forces to combat terrorism and strengthen stability in Iraq and Kurdistan. Indeed, the stability and security of the country are fundamental for the upcoming parliamentary election, an event that usually terrorist groups exploit to organise terrorist attacks and contrast free vote and democracy in Iraq.

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