Islamic State attacks Sadrist militia checkpoint north of Baghdad
Islamic State (ISIS) militants attacked a militia checkpoint between Tikrit and Baghdad on Monday.
The mayor of Samarra where the attack took place said that the Saraya al-Salam group came under heavy ISIS attack.
“A checkpoint of brigade 131 of Saraya al-Salam in the al-Zoor area was attacked by ISIS militants on Monday,” Mahmoud Khalaf told Rudaw. “Intense clashes erupted between the two sides.”
Saraya al-Salam, meaning “Peace Brigades,” is a militia headed by the prominent Shiite cleric Muqatada al-Sadr. The group is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), also known as Hashd al-Shabi, that are predominantly Shiite Muslim militias formed in 2014 to fight ISIS.
Sadr also heads the Sayirun bloc – the largest in the Iraqi parliament.
The official account of Saraya al-Salam’s brigade 131 revealed that at least two of their fighters were killed during the ISIS attack on their channel on the Telegram messaging service.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on Monday on one of its Telegram channels.
Samarra is roughly 135 kilometers north of Baghdad in the Saladin province.
Brigade 131 of Saraya al-Salam announced on Sunday that it sent reinforcements to Samarra in order to maintain the security in the city during Muharam ceremonies.
Muharam is the first month in the Islamic calendar. It is the most spiritual month after Ramadan to Muslims.
On Sunday, an Iraqi federal police intelligence unit seized four explosive devices belonging to ISIS sleeper cells in the Jazira Mukeshefah area in northern Samarra. Federal police also seized 10 missiles and BKC machine guns, the Iraqi Security Media Cell, a part of the Ministry of Defense, said in a Facebook post.
ISIS seized vast areas of northern Iraq in the summer of 2014. At the height of its power between 2014 and 2016, ISIS controlled an area roughly the size of Great Britain, spread across both Iraq and Syria.
Even though, the jihadist group was declared defeated in Iraq in December 2017, its remnants have retreated into Iraq’s deserts and mountains, where they have resumed earlier hit-and-run tactics of kidnappings, ambushes, bombings, and executions, working as sleeper cells.
The isolated desert areas in Iraq is mostly the safe haven that ISIS sleeper cells always choose to stay in and hide from the Iraqi security forces.
Iraqi security forces and the PMF launched the Will of Victory” operation, backed by international coalition airpower, targeting ISIS sleeper cells in the areas between Mosul, Anbar, and Saladin on July 7.
According to a report from the Pentagon Inspector General which covers April to late June, the US-led anti-ISIS coalition known as Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) reported that ISIS in Iraq is attempting to expand its influence over populations in the Sunni-majority provinces north and west of Baghdad, including the Diyala province, and has reorganized its leadership and established safe havens in rural Sunni-majority areas.