terrorist attacks occurred across Iraq during Eid al-Fitr celebrations, raising
concerns of a resurgence of the Islamic State (IS).
ISIS set a
trap for soldiers in the Iraqi army in Tarmiya in northwest Baghdad on June 4,
killing seven soldiers and officers and injuring at least 21 others. The attack
targeted the Commando Battalion of the Baghdad Operations Command, which went
to the area after receiving fake reports from residents who claimed they drove
over an explosive device that blew up. The soldiers were then targeted by IS
snipers as soon as they got to the area; no IS members were captured.
speech after the Eid al-Fitr prayer, Asaib Ahl al-Haq's General Secretary Qais
al-Khazali called on Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to address the
urgent situation in Tarmiya, saying "IS has not left Tarmiya at all."
He said IS has safe havens there, urging Abdul Mahdi to undertake cleansing
operations in the area.
attack targeted members of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Jurf
al-Sakhar in southern Baghdad on the same day of the Tarmiya incident — the
same area saw another attack May 31 that killed some members of the PMU and
injured others. Local authorities pointed out that “the number of IS militants
Reconnaissance Regiment of the 7th Division, supported by military
intelligence, surrounded on June 5 a group of IS militants hiding in a cave
near Ramadi. After exchanging fire, the Iraqi air force ended the battle with
an airstrike, killing seven militants. A large number of explosive belts and
weapons were found in the cave. On the same day, joint PMU and Iraqi army forces
killed three IS militants near Lake Milh in southern Anbar.
incident, six explosive devices struck Kirkuk May 30, killing five and injuring
the Kirkuk attacks, Reuters reported that a group of IS militants managed to
reorganize themselves in the Hamrin Mountains that stretch from Diyala province
bordering Iran, northwest to the Tigris river, crossing northern Salahuddin
province and southern Kirkuk province.
in security led prominent Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to warn the Iraqi
government and demand prompt action — that, or allow his military faction,
Saraya al-Salam, to find a solution to the problem.
In the same
context, Deputy Speaker of parliament Hassan Karim al-Kaabi said in a statement
June 4, "The targeting of the Iraqi army in the Tarmiya area and IS's
attempt to undertake terrorist attacks in Jurf al-Sakhar, Qaim and other areas
require urgent and practical actions from all, especially the three
presidencies and the senior security authorities, in order to deter terrorism
and hold the [security authorities who failed to undertake their duties
previously, following the Kirkuk incident, for taking the highest level of
precautions, reviewing the security plans and undertaking proactive operations
against IS sleeper cells,” he added. Kaabi also called upon Iraqi armed forces
Commander-in-Chief Abdul Mahdi to have Intelligence services undertake a bigger
role in confronting IS by discovering and preventing their plans in advance in
the cities and towns within the Baghdad belt and its surroundings; tightening
security measures in areas where frequent security breaches in the capital and
other provinces occur; and fortifying Iraq's border with Saudi Arabia, Jordan
and Syria — which IS often use to escape or transfer fighters and weapons — in
cooperation with the air force.
about the return of IS are not exclusive to Iraqi authorities. During his talk
on June 4 at the Middle East Institute in Washington, Special Representative
for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS
Ambassador James Jeffrey said, “It is not over yet. … There are tens of
thousands of sleeper cells in Iraq and Syria.”
“There is no timeline for the enduring defeat of IS. … It is an ongoing thing,
and there is always a risk the cells will reemerge,” noting that dealing with
terrorism is a long-term issue everywhere and citing as an example Germany,
where “it took four decades to declare the relatively small Baader–Meinhof
Group terrorist movement over.”
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared in a video last month, calling on his followers
to move to guerrilla warfare as a new strategy.
activity indicates that their sleeper cells have begun reorganizing themselves
and expanding in vulnerable areas. This is due to differences between Baghdad
and the Kurdistan Region and Baghdad and the Sunni areas, which allow IS to
exploit security weaknesses and establish new mobile bases in the Hamrin
Mountains and in the desert of Upper Mesopotamia so that it can undertake
operations on a regular basis across the country.
Ali Mamouri is Al-Monitor's Iraq Pulse Editor and
a researcher and writer who specializes in religion. He is a former teacher in
Iranian universities and seminaries in Iran and Iraq. He has published several
articles related to religious affairs in the two countries and societal
transformations and sectarianism in the Middle East.