After months of intelligence gathering, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) were able to arrest 200 ISIS militants in the country's western Anbar Province.
As the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launch final operations to defeat ISIS in their last stronghold, Baghouz, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are hunting down sleeper cells across the border, in an attempt to defeat the militant group in the region.
Earlier this week, the Iraqi Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism Directorate and the Falcon Intelligence Cell in Anbar Province dismantled an ISIS sleeper cell composed of 200 individuals in the province. According to the officials, this sleeper cell was the largest remaining ISIS cell in Anbar Province.
“Their ranks differ. Some were emirs [top-level commanders], others were soldiers, writers and hisba officials,” said Sa’ad Ma’an, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior.
After investigation, these individuals and crosschecking their information, members of the sleeper cell were sentenced to life in prison, and in some cases, being placed on death row due to their participation in many ISIS massacres and operations, including the Albu Nimr Massacre in October 2014.
Furthermore, a number of the arrested militants also participated in the public execution of Mustafa al-Athari, the Iraqi soldier whose death became a rallying cry for the liberation of Fallujah.
The officials stated that this large operation was successful due to the intelligence they have been collecting from thousands of residents in Anbar over the past few months.
Since the defeat of ISIS in December 2017, the ISF and other security apparatuses have carried out multiple operations throughout the different provinces to neutralise ISIS sleeper cells in the country.
These operations were successful in discovering dozens of sleeper cells, which were planning on carrying out operations against Iraqi civilians and security officials. An infamous sleeper cell, which was discovered and arrested by the ISF last year was the “al-Rawi Network” responsible for financing the militant group.
As these operations continue, local officials and security experts have stressed the importance of government support for these operations in liberated areas.
Heeding these calls, the Iraqi Government has provided liberated provinces with military personnel and equipment and to help dismantle sleeper cells, and prevent ISIS from infiltrating the Iraqi border.