Three suspected "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) suicide bombers blew themselves up Sunday (March 24th) in northern Iraq, the army said, a day after the group was wiped out in neighbouring Syria.
Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasul said the incident took place in a region near the Syrian border, where ISIS sleeper cells are believed to be present, AFP reported.
He said the suspects died as troops surrounded them but there were no casualties among Iraqi forces.
Local officials said the suspects were killed as they were trying to attack troops in the village of Qayrawan, south of the mountainous region of Sinjar which borders Syria.
Top SDF commander Mazloum Kobane on Saturday warned that a new phase had begun in anti-ISIS operations and appealed for sustained assistance from the international coalition to help smash "sleeper cells".
ISIS remnants continue to have a presence in mountainous or desert regions between Syria and Iraq, which had declared victory over ISIS in December 2017.
Rapid detection of ISIS remnants
Iraqi forces received intelligence indicating that ISIS elements were hiding in the village of Sabaya Ammash in Qayrawan, Sinjar mayor Fahd Hamed told Diyaruna.
"A joint force from the intelligence, 29th Brigade and tribal mobilisation forces immediately moved to carry out a raid on the site," he said.
The forces surrounded the ISIS hideout and called on the elements, who were wearing explosive vests, to surrender but they refused, he said.
Clashes ensued after which the three ISIS elements blew themselves up, he said.
The militants had infiltrated Iraq after fighting in eastern Syria intensified with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to liberate the remaining ISIS holdouts in al-Baghouz, he said.
Two of the suicide bombers were Iraqis from Sinjar, said Hamed, identifying them as Fahd Dhahi al-Matyouti from the village of Khilu and Kahlan Abd Zahir al-Matyouti from the area of Belij.
The third bomber has not yet been identified, he said.
The rapid detection and targeting of the ISIS elements indicate Iraqi forces' "vigilance and ability to thwart terrorist plans before they are executed", he said.