Clashes between Iraqi forces and IS leave at least 7 dead

Iraqi forces search the Tarmiyah area, north of Baghdad, on February 20, 2021, following clashes with Islamic State group fighters
Iraqi forces search the Tarmiyah area, north of Baghdad, on February 20, 2021, following clashes with Islamic State group fighters AHMAD AL-RUBAYE AFP
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Tarmiyah (Iraq) (AFP)

Iraqi security forces clashed with the Islamic State group north of Baghdad on Saturday, leaving at least five jihadists and two security personnel dead.

A joint force of army troops and state-sponsored tribal fighters raided an IS hideout in the leafy plains of Tarmiyah, according to a statement from the military.

"We had learnt that IS was holding a meeting there to plan for attacks on the capital Baghdad," Ahmad Salim, head of the Baghdad Operations Command, said near the site of the fighting.

Ensuing clashes killed five IS fighters and two tribal pro-government forces, the military statement said.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi met with top military commanders as troops combed the fields and agricultural lands around Tarmiyah.

The new raid comes nearly one month to the day after twin suicide bombers killed more than 30 people in the packed Tayaran Square, the bloodiest such attack in Baghdad in three years.

Security sources said the two jihadists had infiltrated the city from the north.

A few days later, nearly a dozen fighters from Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi, a powerful network of state-sponsored groups, were killed in an IS ambush -- also north of the capital.

Since then, security forces have ramped up their efforts to hunt IS sleeper cells there, with Kadhemi announcing the killing of Abu Yasser al-Issawi, identified as the top IS figure in Iraq, on January 28.

In early February, security forces killed another IS leader who they believed helped transport the twin bombers into Baghdad.

Iraq declared IS territorially defeated in late 2017 after a three-year fight aided by US-led coalition air strikes and military advisors.

IS attacks in urban areas have dramatically dropped since then, but Iraqi troops have continued to battle sleeper cells in the country's mountainous and desert areas.