Iraqi security forces kill ISIS leader in Syria raid

Iraqi security forces kill ISIS leader in Syria raid

Shafaq News/ Iraqi security forces killed a senior Islamic State (ISIS) leader in a raid conducted inside Syria on Tuesday, the Iraqi National Security Service (INSS) said in a statement.

The statement provided limited details about the operation, citing only that it was carried out by INSS's Counter-Terrorism Cell with "official approvals."

The raid targeted the al-Buseirah area in Syria's Raqqa governorate and resulted in the death of a militant identified as "Kh.Sh.Sh.," also known as "Abu Zeinab."

According to INSS, Abu Zeinab belonged to ISIS' "al-Abra" unit operating along the Iraqi-Syrian border. The statement linked him to multiple attacks on Iraqi security forces in Saladin Governorate, including the Sinjar and Baaj.

Iraqi forces defeated ISIS territorially in 2017. The group has carried out lower-scale attacks since then, particularly in remote areas of the Diyala, Salahuddin, Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces, including in areas that are disputed between the federal and Kurdistan Region governments.

Iraqi operations against ISIS are ongoing. In March, Iraqi forces announced the death of a prominent ISIS leader. On Tuesday, seven "terrorists" with undisclosed affiliations were arrested in Nineveh. A day earlier, authorities seized a money exchange that allegedly received funds on behalf of ISIS in Kirkuk, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.

The recent resurgence of ISIS activity comes as the Iraqi government seeks the withdrawal of US forces from the country. There are around 2,500 US military personnel in Iraq as part of the anti-ISIS coalition. Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani has repeatedly said the coalition is no longer necessary and that it is time to implement a withdrawal. The two countries began a dialogue on the issue late last year.

American officials maintain that ISIS remains a threat in Iraq, albeit less so than in years past. In its report on ISIS for the fourth quarter of 2023, the US Defense Department's Office of Inspector General described ISIS as "largely contained."

The United Nation's mission to investigate alleged genocide and war crimes by ISIS will end in September. Reuters reported in March that the mission, known as UNITAD, will close in September amid disputes with the Iraqi government over evidence-sharing and the death penalty. UNITAD's work was expected to last several more years.

ISIS killed thousands of civilians when it swept through northern Iraq in 2014 and particularly targeted ethnic and religious minority groups. Some members of these communities have been critical of UNITAD's work coming to a close.

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