Iraq is ramping up its fight against the so-called Islamic State to stop the terrorist group from taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic.
Iraq’s Minister of Defence Najah al-Shammari made the announcement yesterday (Tuesday) after a group made up of the Iraqi Army, the federal police and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were ambushed by Islamic State (IS) fighters in the northern Kirkuk province.
The attack left two soldiers dead and 10 others wounded and Shammari said: “The infiltration of terrorists and their terrorist activities in recent days in Iraq is increasing. We must discover the source.
“Across all the areas, we must make a complete assessment of all the terrorist attacks and not allow the IS terrorists to capitalise on the current situation as we grapple with the coronavirus pandemic in Iraq.”
Local media report Iraqi forces will work to gather more precise intelligence and increase airstrikes on IS-held areas.
The terror group holds territory in areas disputed by the governments of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
IS have reportedly urged their members to take advantage of the worldwide attention on coronavirus in their al-Naba newsletter, saying the pandemic is an example of God’s torment and has mainly struck against “idolatrous nations”, according to expert Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi.
Al-Tamimi reported last month that the group said in the newsletter that “the last thing they want today is that this critical time of theirs should coincide with preparations of the soldiers of the Caliphate for new strikes on them, similar to the strikes of Paris, London, Brussels and other places.”
The clash between IS and Iraqi forces on Monday was the third deadly attack from the terror group in a week.
According to the latest figures from the Johns Hopkins University, Iraq has suffered 1,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 78 deaths.
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