- Associated Press - Friday, January 21, 2022

BAGHDAD (AP) — Gunmen from the Islamic State extremist group attacked an army barracks in a mountainous area north of Baghdad early Friday, killing 11 soldiers as they slept, Iraqi security officials said.

The officials said the attack occurred in the Al-Azim district, an open area north of Baqouba in Diyala province. The circumstances of the attack were not immediately clear, but two officials who spoke to The Associated Press said Islamic State group militants broke into the barracks at 3 a.m. local time and shot dead the soldiers.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to issue official statements.

The brazen attack more than 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital Baghdad was one of the deadliest targeting the Iraqi military in recent months.

The Islamic State group was largely defeated in the country in 2017, although it remains active through sleeper cells in many areas. Militants from the Sunni Muslim extremist group still conduct operations, often targeting security forces, power stations and other infrastructure.

In October, ISIS militants armed with machine guns raided a predominantly Shiite village in Diyala province, killing 11 civilians and wounding several others. Officials at the time said the attack occurred after the militants had kidnapped villagers and their demands for ransom were not met.

The officials said army reinforcements were sent to the village where Friday’s attack occurred, and security forces deployed in surrounding areas. More details were not immediately available, and the Iraqi military did not immediately comment.

ISIS attacks have been on the rise in recent months in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, where the group once set up a self-styled Islamic caliphate before being defeated by an international coalition.

On Thursday evening, ISIS militants mounted a complex attack on a detention facility in northeast Syria to try and free fighters from the group incarcerated there.

Kurdish-led forces who control the Gerwan Prison in the city of Hassakeh, which houses about 3,000 inmates, said prisoners rioted and tried to escape while a car bomb went off outside the prison as gunmen clashed with security forces.

The US-led coalition carried out an airstrike after reported casualties among the Syrian-led Kurdish forces. On Friday, the Syrian Kurdish force said two militants who escaped were arrested.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported six militants, two Kurdish security members and one civilian were killed in the overnight clashes. The Kurdish force had no reports of casualties.

In 2014, ISIS established a self-declared Islamic caliphate that covered large parts of Iraq and Syria. The ensuing war against them lasted several years and left large parts of the two neighboring countries in ruins. It also left U.S.-allied Kurdish authorities in control of eastern and northeastern Syria, with a small presence of several hundred American forces still deployed there.


Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb in Beirut contributed reporting.

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