Elite Iraqi counter-terrorism forces are continuing their operation to eliminate ISIS positions in the Hamrin Mountains.
The area connects the Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, to the Salaheddine province, north of the capital. The area is one of the most prominent ISIS hideouts in Iraq after the country declared its victory against the group in late 2017.
The operation was kicked off two days ago and is being led by Abdulwahhab al-Saaedi.
The counter-terrorism apparatus announced Saturday that 12 terrorists have been killed in operation so far.
A spokesman for the apparatus, Sabah al-Numan, said that the operation took more than a month to plan, revealing that it has thwarted ISIS plots against neighboring regions, as well as a plan for it to set up base in Hamrin.
The international coalition has supported the Iraqi forces in their operation, he told a press conference.
“We are determined to eliminate terrorism this year,” he declared.
An Iraqi security source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the operation will extend to other provinces until ISIS is eliminated.
Armed groups expert Dr. Hisham al-Hashemi told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS may have lost its control over various regions of Iraq, but it was able to take root in Hamrin where it adjusted to its military defeat and started to regroup.
It is relying on the natural terrain, which is mountainous and dotted with caves, to fortify itself against a military onslaught, he explained.
The Hamrin Mountains has the potential to hold terrorist threats not just against Diyala, Kirkuk and Salaheddine, but the whole of Iraq, he warned.
Confessions by some ISIS captives in Diyala have revealed that the organization is breaking up from the inside and this should be exploited by the Iraqi military and security forces, he urged.
Security expert Fadel Abu Ragheef doubted that the Iraqi authorities would succeed in completely eliminating ISIS in Hamrin given its treacherous terrain.
“They may limit its abilities, but it would be difficult to say that they will eliminate it,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.