Carrying out the second phase of Operation "Vengeance for the Martyrs," the Iraqi Security Forces have cleared up large areas of land in Salahuddin Province from ISIS sleeper cells.
A spate of killings committed by ISIS militants in Salahuddin Province of Iraq in June pushed the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to launch the largest operation since the declaration of liberation from ISIS at the end of 2017. This operation, named “Revenge of the Martyrs”, was launched in early July and has entered the second phase.
The Samarra and Salahuddin Operations Commands have inspected very large areas in the Umm al-Karami, al-Mitta, and Hawi al-Azim regions. These Command teams were joined by the Federal Police and the Rapid Response Units.
The second phase of the “Vengeance for the Martyrs” operation was not limited to the clearing and inspection of the areas, but holding ground to prevent the re-infiltration of ISIS militants.
Meanwhile, the commander of the operations revealed the arrest of 13 ISIS militants, including 2 leaders, south of Burous. One of them was involved in the execution of 8 members of the Shamar tribe on the Diyala-Baghdad-Nahrawan tourist road after returning from a wedding ceremony held days ago in the area of Burous.
Part of the initial escalation in ISIS activity occurred in early July when the group kidnapped six Iraqi soldiers on the Baghdad-Kirkuk road and held them for ransom. Iraqi forces then launched large-scale search operations only to find the bodies of the six kidnapped soldiers along with two others at Tel Sharaf in Salahuddin Province, decomposing and strapped with explosive devices after being ruthlessly slaughtered by the militants.
A large part of Salahuddin Province was under ISIS control for the best part of the years 2014-2016. Major military operations ended in success in 2016 when most of these lands were liberated by the ISF. Nevertheless, some pockets of ISIS sleeper cells have remained, just as they have in other provinces that were largely liberated. It has been difficult to track down these sleeper cells due to the secluded locations that ISIS militants have been using as hideouts.