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Video: US-coalition airstrikes destroy ISIS tunnel network in Iraq

Members from the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. (DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Released)
May 01, 2020

A tunnel and cave complex in the mountains of Iraq controlled by the ISIS terror group was destroyed by U.S. and coalition airstrikes on Wednesday.

U.S. aircraft, working in coordination with the Government of Iraq, destroyed 10 caves where ISIS fighters were hiding, according to a press release by Operation Inherent Resolve on Thursday.

“The presence of Daesh in Iraq continues to diminish, thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of our Iraqi partner forces,” said Maj Gen. Eric Hill the commanding general for Special Operations Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. “Strikes like these help our Iraqi partners maintain relentless pressure on the Daesh scourge, no matter where these terrorists hide.”

“Removing Daesh fighters and mid-level operatives from the battlefield further degrades their ability to resurge and plot terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, our Iraqi partners, and Coalition troops,” the press release stated.

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After the strikes, the 14th Iraqi Army Division and security forces entered the destroyed caves and searched throughout parts of the complex, though much of it remains inaccessible post-strike. Initial estimates are that 5 to 10 ISIS fighters were killed in the strikes.

Iraqi forces have been able to find ISIS documents, electronic devices, and fragments of destroyed weapons and other equipment.

“The Coalition and Iraqi security partners will continue to target and pursue Daesh fighters across Iraq. The Coalition and our partners remain committed to the defeat of ISIS in Iraq,” the press release concluded.

On Friday, Operation Inherent Resolve assessed Iraqi Security Forces had carried out 99 operations against ISIS forces in the country.

Iraq’s Hamrin Mountains have become a stronghold for the ISIS terror group in recent months. In December the Iraqi-Kurdistan intelligence group, the Zanyari Agency, said ISIS has been rebuilding from the ruins of its defeated caliphate and growing “like al-Qaeda on steroids.”  The mountainous terrain and the tunnels and cave present a difficult challenge to navigate for Iraqi forces working to clear out the terror group’s new stronghold.

In March, two U.S. Marine Raiders were killed during an operation to clear out an ISIS stronghold in the mountainous region of north-central Iraq.