Residents and officials in Diyala have for months been raising alarm bells about the security situation in the province. On the 7th September, the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defence Committee warned that ISIS could stage a comeback in some liberated areas by exploiting ethno-sectarian tensions in the province. Diyala province has a population of about 1.27 million, including a majority of Arabs who are more or less equally divided between Sunni and Shiite, followed by Kurds and Turkmen.
ISIS has launched a series of coordinated attacks targeting soft targets in an attempt to enflame sectarian tensions and draw more supporters. Iraqi forces, as a result have launched a number of sweeping operations in a bid to clear these sensitive areas of Jihadi militants.
Meanwhile, Sunni tribal forces part of the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) have been patrolling the province and protecting towns and villages that are under threat from ISIS militants. According to one tribal leader, ISIS militants have a heavy presence in an area that stretches from the village of al-Arradah to the area of Sharwain. This area includes about 13 villages and stretches across an area that covers 20km.
ISIS militants have been launching sporadic attacks in the eastern Diyala region in an attempt to infiltrate the province and exert its influence and attract recruits. In this area, tribal forces successfully repelled an attack killing a number of militants. According to the main tribal officials in the area, there are constant clashes in the al-Zor area, with one tribal leader claiming the clashes are daily.
The tribes in this area have been critical of what they describe as a lack of support from the central government to help them contain the perpetual threat of ISIS and prevent a potential takeover of the province by the extremist group. However, Iraqi forces are carrying out a number of operations to deal with the sleeper cells in the province.