Iraqi commander, soldiers killed in ‘terrorist’ attack

Dilan Sirwan

May. 14, 2024 • 3 min read
Image of Iraqi commander, soldiers killed in ‘terrorist’ attack

In Salahadin province, an ISIS attack claimed the lives of an Iraqi commander and soldiers, reigniting debates over the necessity of US-led coalition forces in Iraq.

An Iraqi commander and a number of soldiers were killed in a “terrorist” attack in Salahadin on Monday, the country’s Security Media Cell announced.

Colonel Khalid Naji Wassak was killed along with four other soldiers in an attack attributed to the Islamic State (ISIS) on a base in Salahadin’s Mtebija village, a security source told AFP on Monday.

Wassak was a commander of the second battalion of the Iraqi army’s 93rd Infantry Brigade, according to a statement from the Iraqi Defense Ministry.

The statement added that Wassak and a number of soldiers were killed “as a result of their response to a terrorist attack within the sector of responsibility.”

Salahadin province is among a handful of Iraqi provinces where ISIS remnants remain active through hit-and-run attacks.

The group took control of swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014, announcing their so-called caliphate with the city of Mosul as its capital, until Iraqi and Kurdish forces, with assistance from the US-led coalition forces regained control of the taken territories in 2017, announcing the group as territorially defeated.

However, the group still conducts occasional hit-and-run attacks and ambushes in several Iraqi territories, specifically areas disputed between Erbil and Baghdad.

The attack comes as the Iraqi government is more insistent than ever on ending the US-led global coalition’s mission in Iraq, claiming that ISIS no longer poses a threat to the country, a claim that has been rejected by Kurdish authorities, who are perceived as strong allies of the US and fought alongside the coalition forces in the fight against ISIS.

Meetings have been held between Iraqi and US officials on ending the coalition’s mission, however the timeline of the coalition’s withdrawal from Iraq is still uncertain.

Addressing the Monday attack, UK Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hitchen in a tweet said that “every day, the bases of stability grow stronger in Iraq. Yesterday's attack by Daesh will not halt that progress but is a reminder that the threat endures.”

Speaking to The New Region in March, Security Policies Advisor to the Iraqi Prime Minister, Khalid al-Yaqobi said that “there are a number of topics that are being agreed on, the core objective behind these committees is the meticulous technical evaluation of the military landscape by military personnel aiming to evaluate the necessity of foreign troops on Iraqi territory.”

Following an attack in early February that killed two officials from the pro-Iran Kataib Hezbollah, which is officially incorporated into the Iraqi armed forces, Iraq’s top military spokesperson Yehia Rasool said that the Iraqi government’s will to end US presence in the country is now “more than ever”.

Though the US has on multiple occasions claimed that the global coalition is in Iraq upon the invitation of the Iraqi government to help and train Iraqi troops in the fight against ISIS, and that troops remaining in the country serve an advisory and training role.

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Author Dilan Sirwan

Dilan Sirwan is an Erbil-based Kurdish journalist covering Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. He focuses on political, economic, and social issues.


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