Islamic State militants have killed at least 10 Iraqi militia members in a coordinated overnight assault near the central city of Samarra, adding to concerns that the group, which once controlled large areas of the country, is staging a comeback.
The Iraqi military and the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella group of mostly Shia militias allied with the government, confirmed the attack in separate statements. It was the deadliest in a series of attacks in recent weeks that come as the country’s economic crisis deepens and the authorities try to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The PMF said six of its fighters had been killed by direct fire late on Friday in the village of Mekeeshfa, about 60 miles (95km) north of Baghdad. Another three fighters were killed by a roadside bomb as reinforcements were called in. A tenth was shot dead in the nearby village of Tal al-Dahab.
Iraq declared victory over Isis in December 2017 after a three-year military campaign against it. At its height, the group controlled around a third of Iraq and neighbouring Syria, which it governed in accordance with a harsh and violent interpretation of Islamic law.
Isis remnants have exploited security gaps in recent months that have arisen from a territorial dispute between Iraq’s central government and the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, and the withdrawal of US forces in a planned drawdown.
A suicide bomber targeted an intelligence office in the northern city of Kirkuk last week, wounding at least three members of the security forces in the first such attack in months.