ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi counter-terrorism in the disputed province of Kirkuk on Monday announced they had arrested a group of 26 terrorists which had recently been active in the area.
“The terrorist sleeper cell was made up of 26 people, among them women,” the statement reads.
The statement mentioned the group was in possession of suicide vests, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), silenced pistols, and two cars packed with C-4, which is used to make bombs.
The counter-terrorism unit also claimed the group was responsible for most of the recent explosions in Kirkuk.
The statement did not offer details on the identity of the apprehended members. It also failed to mention whether they were arrested in a single or separate military operation.
The Iraqi counter-terrorism’s statement comes one day after the Kurdistan Region’s Security Council (KRSC) announced that the use of car bombs in terrorist attacks was re-emerging while assassinations of village leaders and the targeting of power grids remained a constant in contested areas in October.
Kirkuk is an oil-rich province located in the south of the Kurdistan Region and north of Iraq. It is a multi-ethnic region with a diverse religious background, made up of Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, and Christians. Kurds account for the majority of the population.
Kirkuk is also a disputed territory between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq. The province has undergone several systematic campaigns of demographic change to ‘Arabize’ the region and obstruct the Kurdistan Region’s claim on it.
Last October, in response to the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum, Iraqi forces and the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias attacked Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk and other disputed areas, ousting the Kurdish forces that had previously fought alongside them in the war against the Islamic State (IS).
Since then, Kirkuk and other disputed territories have been witnessing an increase in IS insurgency attacks, ambushes, kidnapping, and explosions. Civilians have criticized the Iraqi forces for failing to provide adequate protection against terror threats.
Editing by Nadia Riva