ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's Interior Ministry announced on Sunday that it had thwarted “the largest terrorist plot” of 2019 in the nation, in coordination with authorities from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The plot, it said, targeted multiple provinces across the country including in the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
The plan was prepared by remnants of the Islamic State, who intended carry out the terrorist attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, in May and early June, according to Abu Ali al-Basri, head of the ministry's intelligence directorate.
“They wanted to target the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a number of other provinces, and the Kurdistan Region as a double terrorist operation in a desperate attempt to prove their existence,” Basri told Iraq's official newspaper, al-Sabah.
“The [Iraqi security media] cell, in coordination with provincial intelligence departments, has been able to mark the terrorists and destroy them with airstrikes as well as face-to-face combat with the terrorists at other times,” Basri said.
He noted that the recent preemptive operations resulted in the arrest of “around 160 terrorists in Nineveh and more than 40 others in Baghdad.”
The Iraqi official added that security forces arrested four suspects who were "mobilized" and prepared to carry out “suicide bombings with explosive belts and the detonation of car bombs in Baghdad, Erbil, Basra, and liberated provinces.”
The term "liberated provinces" refers to those of which a large percentage of territory had been previously occupied by the Islamic State, such as Nineveh, Salahuddin, and Anbar.
Basri also praised the cooperation of the security services in the Kurdistan Region in disrupting the Ramadan plot.
On Thursday, a provincial police department announced the arrest of an alleged terrorist it said had taken part in six deadly bombings across multiple provinces over the past few years. The most severe of these, in the city of Nasiriyah, resulted in the deaths of over 80 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State.
Also on Thursday, Iraqi forces at a security checkpoint in the disputed province of Kirkuk reportedly killed a family of nine after opening fire on their car at night, mistaking them for Islamic State militants.
Iraq announced the military defeat of the extremist group in December 2017, but the remnants of the group continue to launch insurgency attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings across the country.
Editing by John J. Catherine