39 ISIS members killed in overnight Iraqi operations
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's military communications center said on Wednesday that anti-terror forces, backed by the international anti-ISIS coalition, had killed 39 members of the so-called Islamic State in clashes in northern parts of Salahuddin Province.
The operation comes as the terrorist organization continues to carry out insurgency-style attacks, often in and near territories of disputed claim between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal Iraqi government.
In recent months, the group has increasingly relied on kidnapping civilians from rural parts of these areas and holding them for ransom, fueling security concerns among local residents. In the third reported case in recent weeks, suspected Islamic State militants released two Kurds from Kirkuk in exchange for $80,000 paid by family members.
This week's military operation took place outside of Kirkuk, where counter-terrorism units clashed with Islamic State sleeper cells in the Khanoka Mountains located about 100 kilometers north of the city of Tikrit near the Tigris River, read a statement from Iraq's Security Media Cell.
The military press office noted that the operation was launched in "difficult geography" which has made the region a "haven" for Islamic State members since they lost all their Iraqi territory in 2017.
The clashes lasted over ten hours, starting Monday night and continuing into early Tuesday. The Iraqi forces "killed 39 terrorists, including important leaders such as the so-called legal mufti [religious expert], and military official" of the terror group.
Counter-terrorism units also uncovered two tunnels, the statement continued, with the first makeshift facility concealing "large quantities of weapons and ammunition." The other tunnel was a financial workroom that stored equipment, documents, and computers detailing the financial transactions of "ISIS gangs and entities that deal with them."
Coalition aircraft then destroyed the two hideouts, with four Iraqi fighters sustaining injuries during the operation.
On Feb. 17, security forces (Asayish) in Garmyan discovered another underground tunnel used by an unspecified armed group, freeing three individuals imprisoned inside, arresting at least some of those responsible for their abduction.
All three had kidnapped together in the Qadir Karam area of Chamchamal district of the Kurdistan Region's Garmiyan Administration. According to the spokesperson, the three individuals rescued from the tunnel were truck drivers that had been transporting meat and poultry products at the time of their capture.
Editing by John J. Catherine