Iraq executes six for 'shedding Iraqi blood'
Six "criminals" were executed by hanging in Iraq this week, the justice ministry said on Thursday, without specifying if they were jihadists.
The ministry, in a statement, said they were put to death for having "shed the blood of Iraqis" after their appeals were rejected and the sentences ratified by the presidency.
It did not elaborate or identify any of the six who were hanged or say when they were executed.
A ministry spokesman questioned by AFP said only that the six were "terrorists" - a term used by Iraqi authorities to mean anyone sentenced to death.
But forensic sources said at least one of them was a Syrian national, while two were Iraqis.
In June, Iraq executed 13 jihadists after the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the murder of eight civilians whose bodies were found along the highway north of Baghdad.
At the time the justice ministry said the 13 convicts put to death at a prison in southern Iraq "had participated in armed operations with terrorist groups, in kidnappings, bombings and murders of civilians".
It also said that another group of 64 convicts could be put to death as well after they lost an appeal for a stay of execution.
Iraq has repeatedly faced criticism from international human rights groups over the high number of death sentences handed down by its anti-terrorist courts.
In 2017, at least 111 convicts were hanged in Iraq and this year 31 people were executed.
IS fighters swept into Iraq in the summer of 2014, taking control of nearly a third of the country. At the height of the group's power its self-proclaimed caliphate stretched from the edges of Aleppo in Syria to just north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
With its physical caliphate largely destroyed, the Islamic State movement is transforming from a "proto-state" to a covert "terrorist" network, "a process that is most advanced in Iraq" because it still controls pockets in Syria, according to a UN report.
The report, penned by UN experts, said the Islamic State group still may have up to 30,000 members roughly equally distributed between Syria and Iraq, and its global network poses a rising threat.
It said that despite the near-defeat of IS in Iraq and most of Syria, it is likely that a reduced "covert version" of the militant group's "core" will survive in both countries, with significant affiliated supporters in Afghanistan, Libya, Southeast Asia and West Africa.
The estimate of between 20,000 and 30,000 members includes "a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters," it said.
While many IS fighters, planners and commanders have been killed in fighting, and many other fighters and supporters have left the immediate conflict zone, the experts said many still remain in the two countries — some engaged militarily "and others hiding out in sympathetic communities and urban areas.”
The experts said the discipline imposed by IS remains intact and IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "remains in authority" despite reports that he was injured.
"It is just more delegated than before, by necessity, to the wider network outside the conflict zone," the experts said.
The flow of foreign fighters to IS in Syria and Iraq has come to a halt, they said, but "the reverse flow, although slower than expected, remains a serious challenge."
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