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Iraqi warplanes, Hashd al-Sha'abi fighters take on Daesh remnants in Diyala

File photo shows a parade by members of Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) anti-terror force.

Iraqi warplanes and fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha'abi, have embarked on sweeping operations to clear the western border province of Diyala of remnants of the Takfiri terrorist group of Daesh.

As part of the operations, the terrorists’ important positions and headquarters have been heavily bombed over the past three days, especially in the province’s Sheikh Baba village and the mountainous Hamrin area, Abdulkhaliq al-Azzawi, a member of Iraq's parliamentary Committee on Defense and Security, was quoted as saying by al-Maloumah news agency on Sunday.

The operations, he added, have destroyed Daesh’s underground facilities in the areas, many of which contained explosive materials and ammunition.

“Daesh has lost some of its elements during the recent aerial attacks,” he also reported, but said the inaccessible terrain was preventing people on the ground from keeping track of the exact death toll.

Sadiq al-Husseini, the spokesman for the PMU’s division in Diyala, said the airstrikes had killed a Daesh operations officer, who used to function as one of the group’s notable ringleaders and had led attacks against security forces over the past months.

Iraq’s Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network, meanwhile, cited the PMU’s Media Directorate as reporting that the joint security operations had resulted in “cleansing” of “villages in [Diyala’s] Khanaqin District,” saying as a result of the victory, “Nisimiyah roads were opened.”

According to al-Maloumah, the operations are recruiting the Iraqi Army’s air force and army aviation as well as Hashd’s fifth division.

Separately, the PMU released a statement announcing the start of a similar joint operation in Qaratappa in Diyala that lies to the southwest of the western oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Daesh unleashed a campaign of bloodshed and destruction in the Arab country in 2014 amid the chaos and violence that had resulted from more than a decade of military intervention by the United States and its allies.

Iraq rooted out the outfit following three years of uphill struggle. The anti-terror battle benefited from the assistance of Baghdad’s allies, including Iran that lent it military advisory support, and resistance fighters.

The terror group has, however, been maintaining sleeper cells in parts of Iraq, and has escalated its sporadic attacks, especially in Diyala and western provinces of Kirkuk, Salahuddin, and al-Anbar, over the past two months.

Observers believe that the intensified terror activities by Daesh – which has received foreign assistance throughout its existence -- could be designed to create the impression that Iraq’s indigenous forces are incapable of securing the country on their own.

Such a perception would, in turn, help Washington and its allies justify their continued military intervention in Iraq, they note.

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