ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Former Governor of the Nineveh Province and head of the Nineveh Guards Atheel al-Nujaifi on Thursday warned the Iraqi government that remnants of the Islamic State (IS) plan to carry out “massive attacks” in cities across the country.
The Iraqi official claimed the operation’s first phase was called “Hunting Crows,” which would target Sunni leaders who were opposed to IS’ rule after they emerged in northern Iraq in mid-2014.
The Nineveh guards, led by Nujaifi, helped the Iraqi forces in the nine-month-long battle to liberate the city of Mosul, the extremist group’s stronghold and de facto capital in Iraq.
Nujaifi posted the cautionary message on his official Facebook page a day after a tribal leader who participated in the war against IS in Hawija, west of Kirkuk, was killed.
“The assassination of General Anwar Danouk al-Obeidi was the start of the first phase of [IS’] new plan, which begins by targeting Sunni fighters who supported the Iraqi army,” Nujaifi claimed.
A security source previously told Kurdistan 24 that gunmen aligned with the militant group opened fire Wednesday evening on al-Obeidi in the village of Tal Khadija near Rashad, 36 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk.
Overnight attacks by unknown armed groups, reminiscent of IS and al-Qaeda, have been frequent incidents over the past three months, notably since the Oct. 16 attack and takeover of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias.
Nujaifi’s statement said to expect “active operations” at the outskirts of the provinces of Kirkuk and Diyala as well as within the city of Mosul and its southern areas.
He also alleged there would be four stages to the IS’ insurgency plan, culminating in major attacks on Iraqi cities.
Last week, an Iraqi court sentenced in absentia the former Governor to three years of imprisonment and banned him from traveling abroad as well as seized his assets. Iraqi judicial authorities issued an arrest warrant against Nujaifi on charges of “communicating” and “collaborating” with Turkey.
“I hope the Iraqi government will pay attention and adjust its policies in the fight against terrorism and work to strengthen national unity before the threat becomes real and Iraq is forced to make additional sacrifices,” Nujaifi stated.
Nujaifi has repeatedly criticized the Iraqi government’s policies, often describing them as sectarian in nature, which led to the fall of Mosul. The Iraqi parliament voted in May 2015 to remove Nujaifi from his post as Governor of Nineveh.
Baghdad declared “final victory” against IS late last year, but stressed Iraqis to stay vigilant as sleeper cells and insurgencies remain a threat.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany