Iraqi forces led by the 9th Armored Division have begun an operation to clear remaining pockets of Islamic State fighters around the northern city of Kirkuk, nearly a month after Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory against the militants.
Joint Operations Command announced the start of operations to clear ISIS from areas south and west of the city after recent attacks. Rudaw reported Hashd al-Shaabi commander Karim Nouri as saying the militias were also included in the offensive.
“Troops from the 9th division and the Kirkuk Operations headquarter started searches and arrests of wanted suspects, imposing security and order at the regions of Hawija, Riyad, al-Rashad and al-Zarka,” the Joint Operations Command war media cell said in a statement.
Hashd al-Shaabi spokesperson Ali Husseini said the operations will target ISIS “sleeper cells” in the Hawija, Mount Hamrin and Zarga areas and as far south as Salahaddin province.
Pockets of ISIS fighters continue to carry out attacks throughout Iraq even after Abadi declared the war over in December.
“When we say Iraq is ‘liberated,’ we need to understand that that does not mean that ISIS has been defeated in Iraq. They continue to present a threat,” CJTF-OIR Deputy Commander for Strategy and Support Major General Felix Gedney told The Defense Post in an interview last month.
A curfew was imposed Wednesday night in Hawija after a Tribal Mobilization Forces member was killed and two police officers were injured in clashes with ISIS in the town of Dibs. Iraqi media outlet al-Sumeriya reported earlier this week that nine civilians and a number of Hashd al-Shaabi forces were wounded on Sunday and Monday by a series of bombings around Kirkuk.