Islamic State group extremists yesterday said they had carried out an attack in northern Iraq that killed nine police officers, setting off a roadside bomb before machine-gunning survivors.
The attack in the Kirkuk area — which police said left nine federal officers dead — is one of the deadliest in Iraq in recent months.
Islamic State fighters attacked “a police patrol ... detonated an explosive device, then attacked them with machine guns and hand grenades,” the group said in a statement on the Telegram messaging platform.
A federal police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the bomb blast hit a vehicle transporting members of Iraq’s federal police near the village of Shalal al-Matar.
It was then followed by “a direct attack with small arms,” the officer said, adding that “an assailant has been killed, and we are looking for the others.”
Islamic State fighters seized large swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory in 2014, declaring a “caliphate” where they ruled with brutality before their defeat in late 2017 by Iraqi forces backed by a US-led military coalition.
The Islamic State lost its last Syrian bastion, near the Iraqi border, in 2019.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani condemned the violence as a “cowardly terrorist attack.”
Security forces should show “vigilance, carefully inspect the roads and not provide any opportunity for terrorist elements,” he said.
The US-led anti-Islamic State coalition continued a combat role in Iraq until December last year, but about 2,500 US soldiers remain in the country to assist in the fight against the extremists.
However, Islamic State cells remain active in several areas of Iraq.
On Wednesday last week, three Iraqi soldiers were killed and three others were wounded when a bomb exploded as their patrol vehicle passed through farmland in Tarmiya, a rural municipality about 30km north of Baghdad, which is a known hot spot for Islamic State sleeper cells.
Last month, a machine gun attack on a remote northern Iraqi military post killed four soldiers near Kirkuk, a military source said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Iraqi security forces continue to carry out counterterrorism operations against the group, and the deaths of Islamic State fighters in airstrikes and raids are regularly announced.
Despite the setbacks, which has left the Islamic State a shadow of its former self, the group has “maintained its ability to launch attacks at a steady pace,” a January report by the UN said.
The UN estimates the organization maintains 6,000 to 10,000 fighters inside Iraq and Syria, exploiting the porous border between the two countries and concentrating mainly on rural areas.
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