Islamic State still present at Diyala-Salahuddin borders: official

Islamic State militants (representational photo)

Diyala ( Islamic State militants are still present on the borders between Diyala and Salahuddin provinces, an official and a paramilitary leader were quoted saying as offensives approach for the group’s last havens in Iraq.

Abdul-Khaleq al-Azzawi, a member of Diyala province council, told Alsumaria News that  security “loopholes” at the borders between Salahuddin and Diyala are allowing militants to sneak into Hawi al-Azim, north of Baqubah. He said that militants are infiltrating villages abandoned by their residents since 2014.

“The best solution is to repatriate the residents of villages to obstruct any sneaking attempt by the militants,” Azzawi stated.

In a relevant context, Jabbar al-Maamouri, a senior leader at the Popular Mobilization Forces in Diyala, told Alsumaria News that “between 150 and 200 Daesh (Islamic State) elements are still hiding in Mutaibija, on the borders between Diyala and Salahuddin”. He said those are mostly the ones who had shifted to Kirkuk’s Hawija before it was recaptured by Iraqi forces early October.

Mutaibija enjoys a complicated terrain, with numerous hills that serve as a good hideout for militants. Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition forces have regularly pounded IS locations there.

Iraqi, U.S.-backed operations since October 2016 have so far recaptured Islamic State’s main havens, most notably the group’s former capital, Mosul. Iraqi forces have completed preparations to storm the group’s last bastions: the towns of Rawa and Qaim in western Anbar.

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