An Iraqi army commander announced that the past three months was calm and security stable for Khanaqin district, northeast of Baghdad especially to the sub-districts and villages affiliated with the district.
The security situation has deteriorated significantly in some areas of Khanaqin during the past three years, with the continuous targeting of security forces and the villagers, which according to KirkukNow follow-up, resulted in the complete evacuation of 12 villages of their residents, while movement completely stopped in other villages during the night.
Sleeper cells and resistant pockets of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS militants are regrouping in the rural areas of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil. They are targeting Iraqi forces and civilians in the suburbs of Diyla, Kirkuk Ninawa, Salahaddin and Erbil.
The persistence of ISIS threats comes despite the fact that the former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced in late 2017, the complete elimination of ISIS in Iraq, after nearly three years of military confrontations.
Khanaqin is part of the disputed territories which extends from Khanaqin in the east on the border with Iran through the oil rich city of Kirkuk heading to the west of Mosul in Shingal, home to Ezidi ethno-religious minority, on the border with Syria.
The last two months have not witnessed serious violence incidents, which brought joy to the villagers who are now able to resume farming and raising livestock.
Life has returned to our area months ago
Salam Saber, a resident of the village of Gila, northwest of Khanaqin, told KirkukNow, "Until several months ago, this area was not safe. Many villagers used to leave their homes and lands before nightfall and head to the center of Khanaqin district and return the next morning. ...even if they did not vacate their homes, the movement was non-existent in those villages at night, with the exception of the presence of detachments of the security forces on the main roads."
"Life has returned to our area months ago, people started doing their jobs without fear and the security forces became more capable of protecting citizens," Saber said.
The figures about Daesh attacks by the ministry of Peshmerga MOP under the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government KRG show they have carried out 2412 attacks in the last four years since 2018.
ISIS have managed to carry out 1742 strikes in 2018, 270 in 2019, 230 in 2020, 170 in 2021 up to end of October.
KirkukNow correspondent spoke with a number of residents of villages in the area, all of them confirmed the improvement of the security situation in the area.
The Joint Operations Command in Diyala, which includes the army, the police and the pro-Iran Shiite paramilitary of the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, is currently managing the security file in the region.
In general, the Iraqi army in Khanaqin district has an upper hand and plays a larger role than the rest of the other forces.
A high-ranking officer in the First Division of the Iraqi Army in Diyala, who asked not to be named, said, "The security situation in Khanaqin, Jalawla and Saadiya is currently stable and the citizens feel safe, unlike last year... We are also working day and night on protect them."
Regarding the reasons for the improvement in the security situation, the commander in the Iraqi army said, "Coordination has been strengthened within the framework of the Joint Operations Command in Diyala, in addition to that we have full coordination with the forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), including the Peshmerga. Previously, coordination was not as required and we periodically launch joint operations."
"Another reason for the improvement in the security situation is the return of trust between the security forces and the people of the area. We now enjoy stronger relations, and citizens contact us in the event of suspicious movements in the area."
Mid-July, five civilians chasing militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS for abducting two farmers were killed in an ambush in the village of Bina Bakh of Jalawla sub-district of Khanaqin district in Diyala province.
Another reason for the improvement in the security situation is the return of trust between the security forces and the people
During the past three months, seven ISIS militants were killed in the region, according to the Iraqi army commander.
On February 24th, the Iraqi army announced in a statement it has seized 50 mortar shells in different areas of Diyala province, suspected to be part of ISIS ammunition.
ISIS was held accountable for most of the attacks that targeted the army forces and villagers over the past years in the region.
IS militants controlled Jalawla in mid-2014, but the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters) took over the town end of 2014. KirkukNow follow-ups indicate that a total of 4,000 houses and other civilian properties were destroyed during the confrontations with IS.
The officer in the army pointed out that "the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Ministry of Defense provided us with all military equipment in Khanaqin district, such as weapons, thermal cameras and an increase in stationing points," describing this as one of the factors that contributed to restricting the movements of ISIS militants.
"We must not tolerate, there is no doubt that we have reduced the dangers of ISIS, but this organization has sleeper cells that pose a threat to citizens and security forces," he added.
A KRG senior officer, in the Joint Coordination Center between the security forces of the federal government and the KRG, described the coordination between the Peshmerga and Al-Hashid as "very good", but stressed that "there is information that ISIS is seeking to reorganize itself in the region."
The teams of Iraqi ministry of defense and Ministry of Peshemrga MOP under the KRG have negotiating over months to form two joint brigades to fill in the security gap in the disputed territories, in particularly in the deserted areas between Baghdad and Erbil.