Home » ISIS resurfacing in Iraq as country looks to hit back at terror organization

ISIS resurfacing in Iraq as country looks to hit back at terror organization

by Mahmmod Shar

‘Our eyes will stay focused on the terrorism,’ one Iraqi leader says

By Ali Kamal

BAGHDAD, Iraq -The Islamic State caliphate, which held large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, was defeated in 2018, yet analysts are seeing signs, including a growing number of attacks in northern and western Iraq, of a resurgence, a cause for concern that needs to be watched closely. 

“The Islamic State has begun to regain its activity in an attempt to gather what remains of its members,” Fadil Abu Ragheef, an Iraq-based expert on terrorist groups, told Fox News Digital.

He said that while the organization had lost the main centers of power it held under the first generation of its leadership, it continues to pose a danger in the areas where it still has strength, the northern cities between Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and the Mam Mountains. 

Ragheef also referred to areas in western Anbar that constitute a fortification for the organization and still pose a widespread danger. In recent months authorities have dismantled an ISIS arms factory for booby-trapping armored and fortified vehicles, presumably for suicide attacks in Kirkuk and elsewhere.

In recent attacks, there have been suicide bombings near Baghdad and in other regions of the nation. Iraqi authorities have also discovered and suppressed some ISIS operations.

In a September interview with Fox News Digital conducted on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein urged western nations to continue pursuing ISIS.

He foresaw the threat of the resurgence to the entire world, not just Syria and Iraq. What will take place? Hussein enquired. “They would then resume their activities inside Syria and cross the border, and they would do so because Syria is not very far from the Iraqi border. They will therefore cross the border and arrive in Iraq.” He urged other nations to follow Iraq’s lead and repatriate their citizens held in the Al-Hol prison camp.

Despite being far from its former strength, Ragheef noted that ISIS has resumed its operations and is not going away. He continued, calling it an ideological group that is actively carrying out its activities and currently reorganizing its ranks.

CENTCOM chief Gen. Erik Kurilla surveys the al-Hol camp in Syria. (CENTCOM)

He said many ISIS members are among the approximately 57,000 people held in the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria, and noted that the situation has become a growing concern for the U.S. and international community. 

During a visit last month to the camp, Central Command chief Gen. Erik Kurilla warned that ISIS seeks to exploit the horrific conditions of the camp, where 70% of the population is under the age of 12. The general called the camp “a literal breeding ground for the next generation of ISIS.” 

Kurilla also noted that half of the camp’s residents are from Iraq and commended Iraq for repatriating its nationals. 

Bill Roggio a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of the Long Journal War, which follows the global war on terrorism, told Fox News Digital, “The Islamic State, which is born out of al Qaeda in Iraq, is in a stage of resurgence. It has ebbed and flowed over the last two decades.”

“It has demonstrated an ability to regenerate after suffering major defeats,” Roggio continued, “and one of its traditional bases of support has been in northern and western Iraq, particularly the Hamrin mountains. The Islamic State has been in a rebuilding phase, having lost it caliphate in 2019, and is regaining some ground in western and north Iraq.”  

Leaders of local public mobilization forces (PMF) formed to stop ISIS in 2014 say they are watching out for the terror group.

A member of Iraq’s Yazidi community holds photos of victims of the August 2014 massacre carried out by Islamic State militants, during a commemoration of the eighth anniversary of the event at the Temple of Lalish, near the Iraqi Kurdish city of Dohuk on Aug. 2, 2022. (Ismael Adnan/AFP via Getty Images)

Sayyid Hamid al-Yasiri, the head of one group, told Fox News Digital, “Our eyes will stay fixed on the terrorism and our fingers will be on our weapons to defend our country.” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a powerful Shia cleric, appointed Al-Yasri. Sistani, the foremost religious figure for the Shiite minority in Iraq, wields enormous power there.

In order to combat the Islamic State’s onslaught, Sistani reportedly urged physically fit Iraqis to volunteer and join security forces in 2014. The mobilization helped defeat the militants because the call was widely heeded. However, it also increased the size of Shiite militias, many of which are allied with Iran and are suspected of escalating sectarian conflict.

Al-Yasri and his organization have made it clear that they do not follow Iranian directives. In fact, a pro-Iranian militia group attempted to kill Al-Yasri earlier this year after he made a speech criticizing militias that follow orders from outside interests.

ISIS has begun to be very active, there is an influx of foreign fighters from Syrian territory, and they are dispersed from the island of Nineveh toward the mountainous regions, according to several reports we have submitted to the Iraqi authorities, according to Al-Yasri.

He added that his militia has been in contact with ISIS, killing some 14 terrorists in a recent battle, and said this “proved that this organization has begun to return with force to these areas, and appropriate plans must be drawn up to confront it, and rely on the reports of the people of the field in evaluating ISIS’ new movements.” 

He noted that last month his group carried out seven operations, interspersed with multiple clashes and the seizure of four modern pickup vehicles, modern weapons, booby-traps, and huge food and drug stores. He concluded: “As a field man… I see that ISIS has returned with strength and a new tactic based on a war of attrition and hit-and-run.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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