Twin explosions kill 5, wound 2 in Saladin

At least five people were killed and two wounded in two separate explosions in Sharqat, Saladin province over the weekend, officials confirmed. The Islamic State group (ISIS) has claimed both attacks.

The first blast struck on Friday when “five farmers went out to harvest their wheat and barley crops in their fields on the road that leads to Mosul, about 25 kilometre away from Shargat”, Saad Dhahir al-Qaisi, deputy governor of Saladin, told Rudaw Saturday.

He blamed the attacks on ISIS remnants in the region, which also “burned the farmers’ combine harvesters”.

In a video statement posted on Facebook, Ali al-Duduh, the mayor of Sharqat, also confirmed the death of four farmers and the injury of one other, and the burning of agricultural equipment.

This was followed on Saturday when suspected ISIS militants in Shwish “targeted a vehicle which belonged to Hashd al-Ashayiri’s 51th Brigade, resulting in the death of one and injury of another”, al-Qaisi said.

The incident occurred on the main Mosul road between Al-Siniya and Hadathya, the deputy governor added.

In a post on messaging app Telegram, ISIS claimed it had killed five Hashd fighters in the twin attacks.

The Sunni tribal forces known as Hashd al-Ahsairi are mostly found in Anbar, Nineveh, and Saladin provinces. They technically fall under the command of the primarily Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi and are part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

“The security situation of Saladin is not stable and we call on relevant authorities to provide security to farmers,” al-Qaisi said.

He criticized the Iraqi armed forces for their inaction and for not responding.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for several of the recent farmland fires across the country.

Within the span of one week, more than 600 dunams of wheat crop in Khanaqin, Qaratapa, Jabara and the plains of Qamishalan have been burned in the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad in Iraq’s Diyala province.

Since October 16, 2017, when Iraqi forces pushed the Peshmerga out of the disputed territories, 87 civilians, Iraqi soldiers, and police officers have been killed, while 42 more have been injured in Diyala province alone, according to the Garmaser commander, which includes Garmiyan, Khanaqin, and Jalawla (Gulala).

Although the jihadist group was declared defeated in Iraq in December 2017, its remnants have retreated into Iraq’s deserts and mountains where they have resumed earlier tactics of hit-and-run, kidnap, ambush, bombing, and execution.

At least three ISIS militants were killed on Thursday in a joint operation launched by Peshmerga and French military forces on the fringes of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, outside disputed Tuz Khurmatu in Diyala, according to local and Peshmerga sources.

The uptick in ISIS activity in the disputed territories has led to fears of a new insurgency in Iraq.