Iraq News

Iraq pursues ISIS remnants across Syria border

By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad


A screenshot from a video shows the 'Islamic State of Iraq and Syria' base in Syria that was targeted by Iraqi aircraft on April 19th. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Security Information Centre]

Iraq's Joint Operations Command has been pursuing "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) elements inside Syria, as other Iraqi security agencies tighten their control over the border the two countries share to prevent infiltration.

Iraq has stepped up intelligence efforts to target ISIS elements and bases inside Syria, Joint Operations Command spokesman Yahya Rasul told Diyaruna.

"The military airstrikes carried out by the Iraqi Air Force against ISIS targets in Syria on April 19th were based on that intelligence information," he said.

Iraqi Air Force F-16 fighter jets pummeled ISIS bases across the border, killing 36 of the group's elements and commanders, he added.

Iraqi forces also are enhancing security along the border strip between Iraq and Syria to block ISIS remnants from infiltrating, Rasul said.

"We will not allow them to return to Iraq any more, and we will not allow them the time to build new bases across the common border," he said.

The raids and search operations Iraqi forces are conducting throughout the al-Jazeera region are part of a sweep of the entire area, which three years ago was a haven for ISIS, he said, to ensure that it is clear of all the group's remnants.

"There is no safe haven for them in Iraq any more, and intelligence agencies will not allow them to have a safe haven in Syria either," Rasul said.

Need for advanced equipment

ISIS does not at present pose the level of threat that could lead to the fall of an Iraq city, as was the case during its incursion three years ago, said Anbar provincial council security committee chairman Naeem al-Koud.

But ISIS remnants could carry out limited attacks by slipping across the border in small numbers to co-ordinate with sleeper cells inside Iraq, he told Diyaruna.

The issue of cross-border infiltration can be addressed by installing sophisticated surveillance equipment such as thermal cameras along the common border, he said, as well as through the use of drones.

It also can be addressed by "increasing the number of border guard troops, equipping them with sophisticated weapons and increasing air support for them", he said, stressing the importance of intelligence operations.

The Iraqi strategy to neutralise the threat posed by ISIS in Syria will focus solely on the intelligence aspect and border control, with possible resort to airstrikes, said Iraqi military analyst Safaa al-Aasam.

Ground forces will not cross into Syrian territory "in compliance with the directives of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces (Iraqi Prime Minister) Haider al-Abbadi", he told Diyaruna.

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Hadi al-Houthi and those with him should be executed.