ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi militias on Friday announced that they had launched an artillery attack into Syria against the Islamic State, killing and injuring 35 of the group's militants.
The shelling targeted the town of Sousa, the very last pocket held by the jihadist group near the Iraqi border, read a statement released by the Hashd al-Shaabi militias. Also known as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), they are made up of multiple militias, the majority of which are Shia Muslim and receive direct backing from Iran.
It is the not the first time the forces have carried out anti-Islamic State operations across the Syrian border.
Qassem Muslih, the Commander of the PMF in Iraq’s Anbar province, stated that the preemptive operation was able to “achieve accurate strikes targeting a group of Da’esh (Islamic State), who intended to attack our units,” adding that the shelling resulted in 35 casualties.
“Terrorist leaders are among those killed (Abu Wadhah and Abu Hamza) and the commander of the group (Abu Fattoum),” Muslih was quoted as saying in the PMF statement.
The is the latest move by the militias in border areas, where military experts claim the Islamic State is re-grouping after the announcement by US President Donald Trump that he would withdraw American forces from war-torn Syria. The decision has been criticized by many in the US and internationally.
Iraqi officials have varying opinions on the withdrawal. Some believe that the presence of US forces is crucial since the jihadist group still poses serious security threats in the country, while others claim it is time for the US to pull out entirely.
Among those who support a US withdrawal in the region is Muslih, who said, “the security situation is being fully controlled,” and that “Hashd al-Shaabi forces are monitoring enemy movements on the Syrian border.”
Iraq announced victory against the Islamic State in December 2017, but the jihadist group continues to carry out insurgent attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings in multiple provinces, including Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh, Salahuddin, Baghdad, and Kirkuk.
Editing by John J. Catherine