ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi militias late on Monday killed a man they said was a suicide bomber planning to attack their units based in the disputed city of Khanaqin in Diyala Province.
The Hashd al-Shaabi “crushed” the would-be attacker targeting “the headquarters” of the Shia militia in the city, the group’s Khanaqin office claimed in an online statement.
The militia group also posted pictures in which a number of armed men are seemingly mocking the dead body of the purported suicide bomber.
The identity and allegiance of the dead man remain unknown. However, Islamic State militants regularly launch attacks on members of Iraqi security forces in the area.
Despite Iraq’s declaration of a “final” victory against the jihadist group in Dec. 2017, Khanaqin’s security remains fragile, with local officials warning of a possible resurgence by jihadists.
Over the past few months, Islamic State militants were carrying out insurgency attacks in villages far from the city but have now gotten closer and closer to Khanaqin’s center, Jaafar Mustafa, the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the city, recently told Kurdistan 24.
Fears the Islamic State would reemerge in vulnerable and disputed areas have prompted local and international officials to urge Iraqi and Kurdish forces to return to a united front against the common jihadist threat.
In what appears to be another sign of growing coordination and strengthening of ties between Baghdad and Erbil, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on Monday ordered the formation of a new media communications center that will have representatives from each of the country’s various security forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga.
The communications center is delegated with the task of collecting all military and security reports from official sources, prepare daily briefings, and relay them to the public, a statement from the office of the prime minister explained.
The Peshmerga were responsible for the security of Khanaqin and other disputed areas in 2014 after the Iraqi army collapsed against the threat of the Islamic State. They were however ousted in 2017 by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militias in response to the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum, leading to increased instability in those areas.
Editing by Nadia Riva