Terrorism

Iraq's al-Zawiya stable despite ISIS activity

By Alaa Hussein in Baghdad

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Police forces take part in the latest phase of the "Will of Victory" security campaign that targeted ISIS remnants in Salaheddine province in December. [Photo courtesy of the Salaheddine Police Command]

Despite some concerns about "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) activity in the Makhoul mountains in Salaheddine province, ongoing security campaigns with support from the coalition have kept the group's remnants in check.

Security operations against ISIS have not abated in the Makhoul mountain range, even after the declaration of the final victory over ISIS in Iraq.

The latest such operation came as part of phase 7 of the "Will of Victory" campaign, which covered a geographically complex area shared by the provinces of Diyala, Salaheddine and Kirkuk.

ISIS remnants "are active from time to time and carry out isolated terrorist attacks out of their strongholds in Makhoul mountains", said al-Zawiya mayor Mohammed Zaidan.

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The security situation in al-Zawiya in Salaheddine province is stable despite concerns about ISIS activity nearby. [Photo courtesy of the Salaheddine Police Command]

Although the security situation in the locality of al-Zawiya in Baiji district in north-west Salaheddine is stable, he said, residents are apprehensive about the potential dangers that could stem from ISIS activity in the nearby Makhoul mountains.

Al-Zawiya, famous for its natural beauty and bountiful agricultural crops, lies only about two kilometres from the mountain range.

The security forces operating in the locality "are doing their part flawlessly and hitting the group with successive military operations", Zaidan told Diyaruna.

Although al-Zawiya itself has not come under any attacks, ISIS's presence nearby is causing its residents to be apprehensive, he added.

No ISIS comeback

Salaheddine Police Commander Maj. Gen. Qandil Khalil said the security situation is stable in all the cities of the province and ISIS remnants are being hunted down by all security agencies.

The Salaheddine police, in co-ordination with the Salaheddine Operations Command and coalition warplanes, are carrying out extensive and continuous operations in pursuit of ISIS cells on the edges of the province and in the border areas with Ninawa, to the north, and Anbar, to the west, he said.

Security forces have the situation entirely under control, said Salaheddine Operations Command's Director of Military Operations Brig. Gen. Qassim Taha.

"The launch of phase 7 of the 'Will of Victory' campaign was merely to consolidate this control and to reassure residents in all operation sectors that the situation has been stabilised," he told Diyaruna.

"Will of Victory" succeeded in purging vast areas in the foothills and valleys of the Hamreen mountain range as well as the Ajil and Allas fields, clearing them of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), he said.

Security forces destroyed 18 ISIS tunnels and 20 safe-houses containing logistical material and IEDs, according to a December 9th statement by the Joint Operations Command summarizing its gains in phase 7 of the campaign.

"The existence of safe-houses does not mean ISIS is present in those areas," Taha said. "They are old safe-houses that were used by the group in the past, and we destroyed them so they could not be used again."

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