ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday admitted that security forces were still hunting for Islamic State (IS) militants in remote desert areas of Iraq.
The Prime Minister’s comments come after he declared a “final victory” against the extremist group in December after over three years of war that has claimed the lives of thousands and caused severe damage to infrastructure.
The war with IS also resulted in the worst wave of population displacement the region has seen, placing a heavy burden on the Kurdistan Region specifically which has sheltered over 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees.
“We are still chasing remnants of the ravaged terror group [IS] in the desert areas of the country, and we will eliminate them,” Abadi said during a ceremony marking the founding of the Iraqi Police Force.
“The country is heading for reconstruction of all its regions, and economic prosperity,” he added. “We have just achieved victory over terrorism.”
Iraqi security forces, supported by Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias, continue to carry out large-scale sweeps around the town of Hawija, about 50 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk.
The campaign began a week ago as the Kirkuk Province has witnessed an increase in unclaimed attacks ranging from assassinations to kidnappings of officials, officers, and members of the Hashd al-Shaabi.
For nearly the entire duration of IS’ dominance in Iraq, the disputed province of Kirkuk was secure and kept safe under the protection of Peshmerga forces after the Iraqi army collapsed in 2014.
However, on Oct. 16, Iraqi forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi took over the administration of Kirkuk in response to the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 independence referendum.