BAGHDAD (Xinhua) — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Thursday ordered operations to hunt down Islamic State (IS) militants in central Iraq after recent attacks and abductions carried out by the terrorist group.
Abadi, also the commander-in-chief of Iraqi forces, tasked the elite forces of Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) with the operations against the terrorist group, which killed and kidnapped dozens of civilians and security members in the past few weeks.
A statement by his office said Abadi visited the headquarters of the CTS and met with the commanders to discuss the operations.
“Just like we had promised to liberate the land (from IS group) and we met our promise, we promise now our citizens to eliminate these (terrorist) groups and bring them to justice,” the statement quoted Abadi as saying.
“Daesh (IS group) are not in control of any areas, and its members are hiding in mountains, which they used previously, and we have ordered to hunt them down,” Abadi said.
Abadi’s comments came a day after the Iraqi forces found eight executed bodies of people kidnapped earlier by the extremist IS group near the village of Sarha at the provincial border between Diyala and Salahudin in central Iraq.
The bodies were six policemen and members of paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces, who were earlier kidnapped and held hostages by the extremist militants.
The latest deterioration in security put the Iraqi security forces under strong criticism for failing to stop the repeated attacks of IS militants on security forces and civilians, as well as kidnapping dozens of people at fake checkpoints on a main road between Baghdad and Kirkuk.
On Tuesday, Ahmed Abdul Jabbar al-Kraiym, head of Salahudin’s provincial council, warned of increasing attacks by IS militants in central Iraq, holding the government in Baghdad responsible for security deterioration.
Kraiym warned of “catastrophic situation in the province if the government does not deal with the increasing presence of IS militants.”
The security forces “are busy with smuggling fuel and taking bribes from the citizens at checkpoints, while neglecting the security issues,” he charged.
During the past months, hundreds of IS militants fled their former urban strongholds in Mosul, Salahudin Province and Hawija area in the west of Kirkuk, after Iraqi forces took over these regions in major offensives.
On Dec. 9, 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi officially declared full liberation of Iraq from the IS after Iraqi forces recaptured all the areas once seized by the extremist group.
However, small groups of IS militants have since regrouped in rugged areas, carrying out attacks against security forces and civilians from time to time.