ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Islamic State militants late Wednesday ambushed an Iraqi Shia militia convoy in a disputed area southwest of Erbil Province, killing several unarmed men and injuring dozens more, the Iraqi Interior Ministry has confirmed.
The attack “targeted an off duty Hashd al-Shaabi division,” traveling on a road in the disputed district of Makhmour, a statement from the official Security Media Cell read.
Makhmour is administratively run by the Nineveh Provincial Government, and although the exact location of the incident is unclear, media reports suggest that it occurred in an area between Makhmour and the Dibs District of Kirkuk Province.
Six militia members were killed while 31 others were injured, all of whom were “unarmed,” according to the official statement, one of the deadliest such attacks in recent months.
The wounded men were transported to the nearest healthcare facility in the nearby town of Qayyarah, in Nineveh Province.
A security source stationed near the area told Kurdistan 24 that most of the victims were Shia Turkmen, who have their own brigade under the umbrella of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi organization.
On his Twitter account, Turkish ambassador to Baghdad Fatih Yildiz described the assault as a “cowardly ambush” targeting the Turkmen Brigades on the outskirts of Makhmour.
The ministry’s statement added that the military, backed by air support, launched a campaign to sweep the area and track down the attackers.
The Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga have previously carried out joint anti-terror military operations near the area, a vast barren region plagued by Islamic State remnants, which use caves and tunnels as hideouts to plan and carry out attacks.
Despite Iraq declaring a “final victory” against the extremist group in December 2017, they continue to carry out sporadic attacks, including bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings in previously liberated areas like Mosul, and even in areas it never controlled like the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
A week ago, a twin bombing in Mosul left two people dead and at least 28 wounded, with one targeting Shia militias and a second one, the deadlier of the two, detonating near Mosul University.
The latest attack comes just a day after senior military personnel in Mosul held an extensive meeting to discuss the recent twin bombing.
Editing by Nadia Riva