On Wednesday, Iraqis in southern Iraqi city of Najaf mourned the death of six people who went missing last weekend. The six people, including a seventh who is still lost, were truffle hunting in the Nukhayb desert when they were killed by ISIS militants.
Despite its defeat militarily in Iraq in December 2017, ISIS continues to bring pain to families all across the country.
Since the beginning of the month, ISIS sleeper cells have increased their kidnapping operations in Iraq’s Anbar Province. Their latest victims were 15 members of the Luhaib tribe from Najaf. The 15 men went missing early last week when they went to the sub-district of al-Nukhayb to look for Iraq’s rare desert truffles. Despite al-Nukhayb being in Anbar Province, due to the increased stability that the country has witnessed recently, Iraqis would go to the sub-district to hunt for truffles that are usually found in the desert regions during springtime.
“We have seven victims, six martyrs and one missing,” said Mustafa al-Luhaibi, a cousin of the victims. “They were killed in the Nukhayb Desert as a result of a terrorist act. They were providers for their families, and they were working to support them.”
The bodies of the six men were found in the desert by their tribe who brought them back to their hometown of Najaf to be given a proper burial. The grieving families of the victims have expressed their anger with the government, saying that the Iraqi Government has not taken the proper precautions to protect civilians in dangerous areas.
“The commander-in-chief of the armed forces is responsible down to the lowest member,” said Khaled Abd al-Atheem, the head of the Luhaib tribe. “If the area is not secure, why do you allow people to enter? And if the region is secured, how did this happen?”
While the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continue to launch operations against ISIS sleeper cells throughout the country, many cells continue to operate in the Anbar Desert.
The tribe said that the Iraqi Government should either sends troops to find the rest of the kidnapped men or they will take it upon themselves do so.
“I am the father of the missing person, and I ask God and the security forces to send personnel into the region to tell us the fate of my son,” said Arak Chlab, a father of one of the still alive kidnapped men. “We are ready to go if they ask us to do so.”
While the security situation has stabilised much more in the past two years, the Iraqi Government and ISF must continue to conduct operations against the militant group, which continues to target civilians trying to support their families.