IS hiding out in Iraq 'disguised as policemen and shepherds'

IS hiding out in Iraq 'disguised as policemen and shepherds'
Iraqis in Anbar province are fearing fresh attacks targeting polling stations as remaining IS militants are reportedly hiding out in the desert disguised as shepherds and police officers.
2 min read
05 May, 2018
Iraqi forces in the Anbar desert after defeating IS in November 2017 [Getty]
IS fighters are hiding out in the deserts of Iraq's Anbar province disguised as police officers and shepherds to elude security officers and launch pre-election attacks, local tribal leaders have reported.

A police source from Anbar said that a security clampdown was launched on Saturday morning to oust remaining IS elements from the region and prevent sleeper cells from launching attacks feared to target polling stations and security forces.

Iraqi forces have tightened controls at checkpoints and increased patrols in order to restrict the movement of the terror group, who are believed to have dozens of fighters stationed in the Anbar desert in western Iraq, once a stronghold of the militant group.

An Iraqi security source told The New Arab the air force was carrying out surveillance of desert areas near the town of Rutba, western Anbar, after receiving intelligence about the whereabouts of some extremist fighters.

Local tribal leader Adnan al-Athawi said that armed tribe members were providing support to the Iraqi forces in the surrounding area, noting that militants are disguising themselves in police uniforms or as local sheep herders in order to evade security forces and air surveillance.

Athawi told The New Arab he feared IS would target Iraqi forces guarding polling stations, stressing the urgency to rid the western desert of dangerous militants.

Member of the Anbar provincial council Eid Ammash warned of the possibility IS would launch attacks in the run-up to the elections, as the group is still looking to restore its authority in the province.

Ammash mentioned during a press conference that several attempts made by IS militants to cross into Anbar from neighbouring Syria have been thwarted in recent weeks.

Many are expecting an escalation of terror attacks as election day approaches and IS aims to deter Iraqis from going to polling stations.

Ammash also pointed out IS is much weaker than it was at its peak, but will still attempt to carry out car and IED bombings, and indiscriminate shelling.

In another development, the Iraqi Centre for Security Information reported that a cache of explosives and IEDs, thought to belong to IS, was found in a rural area just north of Anbar city.

In April, a suicide attack targeted a political party headquarters in Anbar, killing four people and injuring seven others, including a candidate in the elections.