"Revealing Road": an operation to purge "hot territories" in Diyala
Shafaq News/ Iraq's military has proceeded with building a road that traverses a "hot territory" in Diyala in a bid to eradicate sleeping ISIS cells and repatriate the internally displaced citizens to their hometowns, a local official said on Saturday.
Iraqi authorities use the term "hot territories" to imply that the area in question is infested by terrorist groups.
Al-Miqdadiyah's interim commissioner, Hatem Abd Jawad, told Shafaq News Agency that Diyala's Operations Command is building a road that travels along with the Diyala River to explore abandoned orchards and lands in the towns of Sheikhi, Abi Karma, Makhisa, and Abi Khanazir.
"Operation Revealing Road aims to uncover the hideouts and transportation routes used by ISIS militants in order to purge the entire area and ultimately allow the return of the displaced citizens to their hometowns," he said.
"More than 50% of the families that were displaced from the Abi Saida sub-district are still unable to return due to security concerns," Abd Jawad added.
Diyala, which stretches from the Iranian border to just north of the capital, Baghdad, is crossed by the Hamrin mountain chain, infamous for its longstanding use as a hideout for insurgent groups even before IS existed.
It was east of Diyala's capital city, Baquba, that the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq at that time, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a 2006 airstrike.
In recent years, Diyala has been one of the Iraqi governorates with the highest number of attacks by ISIS cells and has seen attacks using similar methods to the most recent one.
While security issues have been left to fester in the governorate and must be addressed, there are also major concerns about sectarian killings.
Sunni Arabs in general across Iraq experienced major displacement during ISIS occupation of their hometowns and the subsequent fight against the international terrorist group, victory against which in the country was declared by the Iraqi government in December 2017.
Many from areas previously under ISIS control have still not returned home almost five years later, or have no homes to return to. In some cases, such as Jurf al-Sakr (now renamed Jurf al-Nasr), they are not being allowed back into the area by Shiite armed forces that have claimed the area for themselves.
Such situations — which has deprived many of their lives, homes and livelihoods — are being used for propaganda purposes by ISIS or others seeking to place collective blame on already suffering communities.