Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) The number of Islamic State troops at the borders between the provinces of Diyala and Salahuddin has tripled in the past few months, a senior leader at al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Units) ha said.
Udai al-Kahdran, a commander at the militias fighting IS along with the government forces, told Alsumaria News on Wednesday that the fact indicates the extremist group’s willingness to distract security forces. He said the increase in militants at that region came as many had regularly sneaked from Kirkuk’s town of Hawija, an IS stronghold, to Salahuddin’s Mutaibijah and surrounding areas.
IS is trying to create “a new hotspot to preoccupy security forces”, and to “put hurdles on the way to liberating Hawija, according to Khadran.
IS is currently losing much ground at Mosul, the group’s biggest stronghold in Iraq, as security forces have liberated half of the city since operations launched in October 2016. But the group has stepped up violence against security and civilians in other provinces, which observers believe is an attempt to distract government forces and to make up for losses in Mosul.
On Wednesday, IS attackers killed four tribal combatants and six policemen, and kidnapped five police personnel in the east and south of Salahuddin’s city of Tikrit. Another attack in Hamreen killed nine members of Diyala police forces.