ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Three lawyers were shot and killed in Iraq’s northern Nineveh Province by attackers believed to have ties with the Islamic State (IS), local police sources said on Tuesday.
According to police officers in the province, the deadly assault took place on the main road linking the city of Mosul and the Hamam al-Alil district, south of Nineveh.
“Gunmen stopped the car of lawyer Mohamed Ahmad al-Khalidi, who was accompanied at the time by two other lawyers,” Iraqi Federal Police Captain Mustafa al-Naimi told Anadolu Agency.
“The gunmen then opened fire on the three men, killing them instantly,” he added.
Naimi said the three victims had been working on local court cases related to terrorism in general, specifically crimes committed by IS members or sympathizers.
He noted that the attack might have been carried out by the militant group’s sleeper cells which are striving to “sow fear among those working against terrorism in Nineveh.”
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the murder of the lawyers.
Despite Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s “final victory” announcement in early December to mark the end of IS in Iraq, the extremist group continues to strike in newly-liberated areas.
Local officials have claimed IS cells have returned to the town of Hawija, southwest of Kirkuk.
Terrorism experts warn the militant group’s threat remains active in the region and the US-led coalition cautioned that militants were moving freely in the desert areas bordering Iraq and would be adopting insurgency tactics in the country.
Kurdish officials have also noted that ongoing tensions between Erbil and Baghdad would contribute to the reemergence of IS or similar groups in Iraq.
Since the military takeover of Kirkuk Province by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militias on Oct. 16, 2017, the security situation has drastically deteriorated in disputed areas.
The military coordination between Erbil and Baghdad has stopped since the Region held an independence referendum on Sep. 25, 2017, which won overwhelming support for secession from Iraq.
Baghdad refused to recognize the vote and instead responded by imposing collective punitive measures against Kurdistan, including the use of military force in disputed areas.