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Four Iraqi soldiers killed in raid foiling Daesh plots to target pilgrims north of Baghdad

Shia worshipers gather at the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the great grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), during the annual commemoration of the seventh Shia Imam’s martyrdom anniversary, in Baghdad, Iraq, on February 15, 2023. (Photo by AP)

Four Iraqi army soldiers have been killed in a counter-terrorism operation north of the capital Baghdad, which thwarted plots by Daesh terrorists to target pilgrims during the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Musa al-Kazim, the great grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the seventh Shia Imam.

Iraqi media reports said the fatalities took place on Thursday in Tarmiya, about 25 kilometers north of Baghdad, where remnants of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group are active, as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims descended on the Kadhimiya district to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Musa al-Kazim.

The Iraqi government's security media cell said in a statement that an army unit launched a "raid on a hideout of Daesh terrorists," adding that "three terrorists were killed, one of whom was wearing an explosive belt.”

"Two officers and two soldiers" were also killed when the device was detonated, the statement said.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Salim, the commander of security forces in Baghdad, was quoted by Iraqi News Agency as saying that the raid had foiled a terrorist plan to target the pilgrims of the seventh Shia Imam.

"As part of the pre-emptive operations carried out by the Baghdad Operations Command in the Tarmiya district, north of Baghdad, to track down the remnants of Daesh terrorist gangs, the Baghdad Operations Command Commando Brigade managed to kill a terrorist detachment of Daesh gangs consisting of three terrorists, one of whom was wearing an explosive belt,” Salim said.

"The information indicates that they intended to target the pilgrims of Imam al-Kazim (PBUH)," he added, stressing that the Iraqi army units are still searching the area.

Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

Iraq declared victory over the terrorist group in December 2017 after a three-year counter-terrorism military campaign, in which the PMU, known in Arabic as Hashd al-Sha’abi, also played a major role.

However, Daesh’s remnants keep staging sporadic attacks across Iraq, attempting to regroup and unleash fresh violence in the Arab country.

The Takfiri terrorist group has managed to intensify its attacks in Iraq, particularly since January 2020, when the United States assassinated top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and PMU’s deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport.

Anti-US sentiments sharply increased in Iraq in the aftermath of the assassination, prompting Iraqi lawmakers to pass a bill – only two days after the assassination – that required the Baghdad government to end the presence of all foreign military forces led by Washington.

The US was finally forced to end its “combat mission” in Iraq by the end of 2021, but Iraqi resistance groups say the Pentagon’s so-called advisory role has to end as well.

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