BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – Iraqis on Sunday held funeral processions for 11 members of the Hashd al-Sha’abi force, a day after they were killed north of the capital.
Hashd security sources said the anti-terror fighters were killed during an ambush by Daesh terrorists.
The takfiri terrorists used light weapons and the cover of darkness to target the Hashed east of Tikrit, the capital of Iraq's Salahaddin province, two days after a twin bomb attack claimed by the group killed 32 people in Baghdad.
"Daesh launched an attack on the Hashd's Brigade 22," said one of the unit's officers Abu Ali al-Maliki. He told AFP the brigade commander was among those killed before reinforcements from the federal police came to the unit's aid.
Hashed security sources said the total toll was 11 dead and 10 wounded.
Iraq declared Daesh territorially defeated in late 2017, but has continued to battle extremist sleeper cells, mostly in the country's mountainous and desert areas.
But the U.S. assassination of Iran’s legendary anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani and Hashd al-Sha’abi deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January 2020 and its repeated attacks on the Arab country’s popular groups fighting takfiri terrorists have made Daesh bolder.
Amid the pressure on anti-terror groups, local sources have expressed concern over the readiness of Iraq's security forces, who have been worn down by the spread of Covid-19, political infighting and corruption.
This week's attacks may be illustrative of those accumulated shortfalls in the face of a resurgent Daesh, experts have said.
Following the U.S. invasion in 2003, Iraq's security forces had to be effectively rebuilt from the ground up, relying heavily on training by foreign armies, but they vanished when Daesh overran the country in 2014.
The current Iraqi administration of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, seen as being friendly with the U.S., has relied heavily on the U.S.-trained Counter-Terrorism Service for a range of missions, from hunting down Daesh cells to reigning in groups launching suspicious rocket attacks at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which have hardly hit their targets.
In an effort to bring in more names and faces he trusts, Kadhemi ordered an overhaul of Iraq's security leadership late Thursday, including a new federal police commander and chief of the elite Falcons Unit.
But he had to walk back some of those decisions within a day following political pressure.
Last week, Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen TV network reported that the U.S. military had transferred Daesh prisoners to the Iraqi-Syrian border.
American forces used choppers to relocate the Daesh inmates from prisons in Hasakah province in northeast Syria to the Iraqi border, it said.
Nouri al-Maliki, former Iraqi prime minister and current head of State of Law coalition, has called for a comprehensive investigation into the terrorist attacks to determine whether they was supported from or planned abroad.
Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks. Hashd al-Sha’abi played a major role in reinforcing the Iraqi army, which had suffered heavy setbacks against the takfiri elements.
The stepped-up terrorism comes as the U.S. is facing renewed calls from Iraqi factions to pull out its troops under a resolution passed by Iraq’s parliament last January.
Amid the stepped-up attacks, Western specialists and media are trying to portray a state of urgency for Iraq to extend the stay of American troops, highlighting their role in providing training, surveillance and airstrikes in purported support of anti-takfiri operations.
Several Iraqi political groups have pointed finger at Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the occupying regime of Israel over recent bombings in the country.
Iraq’s Harakat al-Nujaba resistance group on Saturday warned of plots to carry out attacks in Baghdad, as well as the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, warning that the regimes supporting the takfiri group risk inviting such attacks into their own territories.