The recent escalation in ISIS‘ activity in northern and western Iraq has prompted the Iraqi Government to launch major operations, particularly in Kirkuk and Salahuddin, where the group has been particularly active. Three weeks ago, the group kidnapped six Iraqi soldiers on the Baghdad-Kirkuk road and held them for ransom.
Iraqi forces launched large-scale search operations only to find the bodies of the six kidnapped soldiers along with two others at Tel Sharaf in the Salahuddin province, decomposing and strapped with explosive devices after being ruthlessly slaughtered by the militants.
The incident came as a shock to many in the country and as a wake-up call to the Iraqi Government that ISIS are still a threat and that their insurgency can still do immeasurable damage, despite their supposed defeat and the liberation of all areas in Iraq at the end of last year. Many residents in central Iraq have been imploring the government to take action to bring security to the region.
Dubbed “Vengeance for the Martyrs”, the operation will see the Iraqi Army, Special Forces, Federal Police and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters hunting down ISIS cells operating in Kirkuk, which has become a hotbed for ISIS militancy in recent months. This is especially the case for the Hamrin Mountains, which has acted as a safe haven for the group, with successive Iraqi attempts to clear the mountainous area of the group proving, so far, unsuccessful.
The operations show that the most recent atrocity committed by ISIS has only united the country against the group. The operation marked the first time that federal Iraqi forces and the peshmerga were working together since clashes following last year’s Kurdish independence referendum.
Just yesterday, commanders within the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) met in Kirkuk to discuss the possibility of creating a joint Peshmerga-Iraqi Federal Forces operations room in order to strengthen cooperation and coordination against ISIS.