ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Several mortar shells purportedly fired by Islamic State militants landed in a village in the disputed Iraqi district of Khanaqin on Saturday night as security forces and members of the terror group clashed nearby, local sources said.
The incidents reportedly occurred in and around the village of Mubarak, just four kilometers north of Khanaqin city, located in Diyala province. The bombings began around 10:30 p.m. local time, one source told Kurdistan 24, adding that five out of a total of 12 mortar shells fired had exploded upon impact.
The source asserted that Islamic State militants were behind the shelling but gave no further details.
Following this, heavy clashes broke out in the surrounding area between Iraqi troops and a group of gunmen from the terror group, locals said. Casualty reports from either incident were not immediately available although residents of the village reported damage to farms and livestock.
Khanaqin is an area disputed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal Iraqi government. The Hamrin mountain range, which borders the district’s southern part, has long been a hiding spot for the terrorist organization’s sleeper cells. The region is among parts of the country still wracked by an insurgency waged by the Islamic State.
The group’s members are reportedly still using parts of the rugged and arid mountain range to regroup, regain strength, and plan various attacks on nearby areas.
Related article: Peshmerga foil ISIS attack in disputed area of Khanaqin
Over a year and a half since Iraq proclaimed a military victory over the Islamic State, the terror group’s activity continues in several parts of the country. Its attacks are consistently concentrated in the disputed territories where the group exploits a security vacuum once filled by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, especially in rural areas.
On Thursday, Peshmerga fighters at an outpost in Khanaqin thwarted an Islamic State attack, according to a Kurdish military commander from the region. On July 31, Islamic State members clashed with local Kurdish security forces just south of Kifri, near Khanaqin, resulting in five Peshmerga deaths.
Editing by John J. Catherine