ERBIL (Kurdistan24) – Iraqi special forces backed by the US-led international coalition began a “large-scale military campaign” to clear remnants of the Islamic State from the Hamrin Mountains, Iraq’s Interior Ministry announced on Thursday.
Hamrin is a rugged mountain ridge located in Diyala Province near the Iranian border and westward to the eastern banks of the Tigris River, straddling the borders of Salahuddin and Kirkuk. The area has long been a safe haven for extremist groups that maintain caves and tunnels there from which they have often planned future attacks.
The statement did not specify a timetable for the end of the operation.
The new campaign comes under the direction of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the statement read, and will be “personally overseen by the head of the counter-terrorism forces, Abdul-Wahab al-Sa’idi.”
Iraqi forces aim to “destroy all caves and safe havens” used by jihadi militants.
This is just the latest combing operation in the region, as Iraqi troops have carried out several similar ones in the past few months.
Despite such concerted efforts, the Islamic State remains active and carries out regular attacks in surrounding areas, especially in villages and out-of-the-way regions where security forces have difficulty monitoring its fighter's movements.
Locals living at the foot of Mount Qarachokh, just 80 kilometers northward, recently told Kurdistan 24 that the group remains alive and well in their area, regularly assaulting villages and often extorting so-called “taxes“ from residents, prompting some to leave their homes to seek refuge northward in the Kurdistan Region.
Editing by John J. Catherine