Iraq News
Security

Joint forces secure Iraqi cities from ISIS infiltration

By Khalid al-Taie

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A member of the Anbar Police Force directs traffic in this photo, posted online on March 8th. [Photo courtesy of Anbar Police Directorate]

Iraqi forces are stepping up special operations around cities liberated from the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) as a precautionary measure to ensure no remaining fighters linger and to protect these areas from security breaches.

Police, army and tribal forces in Anbar have been creating a security belt around the province's cities and mounting occasional joint raids on militant hideouts.

Security measures to protect the cities are proceeding in accordance with a well-formulated plan, Anbar police commander Maj. Gen. Hadi Kassar Erzeij told Diyaruna.

This is being implemented by al-Jazeera Forces, the Anbar Operations Command and other security and intelligence services, including tribal volunteers, he said.

One part of the plan focuses on reinforcing military deployment around the cities, in the form of security belts that include permanent checkpoints.

This includes patrols deployed to monitor passageways and unpaved roads and to close down all possible access points and gaps that militants might use to infiltrate the cities, he said.

Another aspect of the plan will focus on launching search operations and raids against militant hideouts in the heart of the desert around the cities.

Round-the-clock campaigns

These are "unrelenting and around-the-clock" campaigns through which Iraqi forces have managed to kill dozens of militants and destroy their hideouts, particularly those located in al-Rutba desert, Erzeij said.

A tactical force affiliated with the Anbar police managed to hunt down extremists hiding out in al-Thirthar Island in the eastern part of the province on April 3rd.

The operation resulted in "the death of three ISIS commanders who were hiding out in a cave, including the military emir of Ramadi, a terrorist who goes by the name of Omar Safwak" (also known as al-Chichani), he said.

"Such high-level operations will continue and will not be limited to one area, but will include all urban and remote desert areas alike," he added.

Security operations will pick up pace, he said, particularly as the nationwide legislative elections, which are set for May 12th, are rapidly approaching.

"We have taken all the necessary precautions and measures to protect voters and voting centres and stations," he said.

In al-Hawijah in the western Kirkuk province, security forces are continuing operations to secure and stabilize the city.

They have been conducting "effective plans and activities" to root out remaining pockets of ISIS fighters, al-Hawijah local council chairman Ali Daham told Diyaruna.

"The centre of al-Hawijah is currently secure and we have not registered any terrorist incidents in months," he said. "Our troops are being deployed at high numbers, thus preventing any attempt on the part of terrorists to infiltrate."

Securing desert areas

Daham called for reinforcements to hunt down ISIS remnants in the desert around al-Hawijah, which provides access to other provinces.

"Areas like al-Abbasi and al-Riyadh have been liberated but have not been fully cleared of ISIS remnants that are still hiding in its outskirts," he noted. "Securing these places requires more troops and security efforts."

As for Mosul and other cities in Ninawa province, local officials have confirmed they "no longer offer safe havens" for ISIS fighters.

"Our cities are now surrounded by three security belts in which the local police, army and the tribes are taking part," Ninawa provincial council security committee chairman Mohammed Ibrahim told Diyaruna.

These forces are working to monitor the al-Jazeera area and its outskirts so as to prevent infiltration and to seal the area off from ISIS elements, he said.

Ibrahim noted that protecting the liberated cities mainly relies on intelligence information, which has led to the capture of several ISIS cells.

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