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Iraq says it killed deputy ISIS commander in retaliation for Baghdad suicide bombings

ISIS flag (DoD Photo/Released)
January 28, 2021

Iraqi forces killed ISIS terrorist group commander Abu Yaser Al-Issawi this week in a counter-terrorism operation, just one week after a pair of suicide bombers attacked a market in Baghdad, killing at least 32 and wounding more than 100.

On Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi announced the successful Iraqi mission, tweeting, “We promised and fulfilled. I gave my word to pursue Daesh terrorists, we gave them a thundering response. Our heroic armed forces have eliminated Daesh commander Abu Yaser Al-Issawi as part of an intelligence-led operation. Long live Iraq and its patriotic armed forces.”

Al-Kadhimi also tweeted in Arabic that Al-Issawi claimed he was the “deputy caliph” for ISIS and the organization’s leader in Iraq.

Al-Kadhimi’s tweet offered few specifics about the counter-terrorism operation, but he described it as an “intelligence-led operation.”

In a statement, Iraqi Ministry of Defense spokesman Yehia Rasool said, “Our security forces managed to kill the terrorist called (Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan Al-Issawi / known as Abu Yasser Al-Issawi), in a strike targeting the burrow in which he was sheltering, his sons and his aides.”

Rasool further said the strike was carried out using a precision weapon and that their identities were confirmed.

Reacting to the Iraqi claims, Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, tweeted, “Given #Iraq’s claim today that it has killed #ISIS’s #Iraq wali, it’s worth awaiting more substantive evidence & secondary confirmation. Previous claims have turned out to have been false.”

Lister previously tweeted, “If this is indeed confirmed, it’s significant news… al-Issawi headed up #ISIS’s entire #Iraq operation.”

Further discussing counterterrorism operations on Thursday, Rasool said Iraqi forces have increased their operations against ISIS since September, and the ongoing efforts have led to strikes killing 17 terrorist leaders.

Concluding his remarks on Thursday, Rasool said, “Terrorism will have no place in the land of Iraq except for graves glorified with bad consequences, insult and humiliation.”

ISIS claimed responsibility for last week’s bombing attack. At the time, Rasool said, “A terrorist attack was carried out by two suicide bombers who detonated themselves when pursued by security forces in the Bab al-Sharqi area in Baghdad.”

The first suicide bomber reportedly ran out into the middle of a busy market and called out that he was ill, drawing crowds of people to draw near before he detonated his suicide vest.

The second suicide bomber detonated his own vest moments later.

Thursday’s bombing attacks were the first bombings on Baghdad’s commercial area in three years. The last attack on the commercial district took place in 2018 after then-Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared victory over ISIS.

Last week, Maj. Gen. Tahsin al-Khafaji, a spokesman for the Joint Operations Command in Iraq, said the bombings were carried out by ISIS to prove the group still stands after having suffered a series of defeats from counterterrorism operations in recent months.

While ISIS has suffered territorial defeats in recent years, including the loss of its last territorial Syrian territorial stronghold in Baghuz in 2019, the error group has persisted with a low-level insurgency against coalition forces in Syria and Iraq. The terror group has reportedly made the Hamrin Mountains of northeast Iraq their new stronghold in the country in recent months.