Iraqi forces say ISIS judge killed in Kirkuk as part of 'lightning operation'

Iraqi forces announced on Friday they had killed a senior commander in the Islamic State in a "lightning operation" in Kirkuk city, an area disputed between the regional Kurdish and central governments in the country.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi forces announced on Friday that they had killed a man who previously acted as a judge for the Islamic State in a "lightning operation" in the disputed city of Kirkuk.

According to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Meizer Hadi Abbas al-Jawali held many positions in the jihadist organization, the last of which was "the judge of the Rashad district" in the embattled city of Hawija.

Jawali was formerly a member of Ansar al-Islam and joined the Islamic State following the group's rise to prominence in 2014.

According to Friday's announcement, he was killed in the "1 Huzeiran" (June 1st) neighborhood in Kirkuk city. A security source told Kurdistan 24 that security forces confiscated forged identity cards and a mobile phone that were in his possession at the time. 

The source added that police initially attempted to arrest Jawali, but he resisted and exchanges of gunfire resulted. The firefight ended soon after with the death of Jawali.

Security officials launched the operation to take down the high-ranking Islamic State member after he reportedly killed a member of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias on Thursday.

Kirkuk's security remains precarious over a year after Iraqi forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi's assault on it and other disputed territories, pushing Kurdish Peshmerga forces from them. Though recent steps have been taken to increase coordination between the two governments on security matters, a burgeoning partnership remains to be seen to provide a more stable environment for the citizens of the majority Kurdish but ethnically diverse province.

The Hashd al-Shaabi said in a statement that its forces, as well as the "intelligence hawks cells" of the Interior Ministry, participated in the operation against the Islamic State official.

It is not known exactly when Jawali moved into the city of Kirkuk.

Hawija, where he was stationed as a judge for the Islamic State, is located southwest of the provincial capital. One of the group's past notorious strongholds, it sustained considerable damage when it was liberated by Iraqi forces in late 2017. 

Residents complain that no observable effort has been undertaken by the central government to rebuild the city and that many live in fear of a possible resurgence of extremism, as core issues that contributed to local tribes siding with the militant group remain unaddressed. 

Editing by John J. Catherine