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Iraq attacks at lowest since Daesh ‘caliphate’ declared: Study

A man rides out of the window of a car transporting one of the victims of a suicide car bomb attack in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurmatu, near Iraq’s oil-rich multi-ethnic province of Kirkuk, on Tuesday. (AFP)
BAGHDAD: The number of attacks in Iraq has fallen to its lowest since the Daesh group declared a “caliphate” in 2014, a study said Wednesday, with the militants reduced to scraps of territory.
“Non-state armed group attacks and resulting fatalities represented the lowest monthly totals since the formation of Daesh and the declaration of the caliphate in June 2014, highlighting the extent of the decrease in operational activity by the group in Iraq,” the Britain-based Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC) said.
“The 126 attacks in October represented almost half the peak recorded in January, while the 102 fatalities represented an 80.0 percent decrease from November 2016.”
The drop in violence came as Iraqi troops forced Daesh from the last few towns it held along the border with Syria, reducing its territory to just a few pockets of sparsely populated desert.
The defeats are the latest in a punishing campaign by government forces backed up by airstrikes by a US-led coalition that has seen Daesh ousted from its major strongholds, including Iraq’s second city Mosul.
As the group has lost ground it has increasingly turned to “asymmetric operations, typified by low-level attacks targeting the security forces and higher profile attacks against civilian sectarian targets,” the JTIC said.
In October, the militants carried out 15 suicide attacks that claimed seven lives, with the security forces succeeding in disrupting the vast majority of the attempts, the study said.
In a sign of how perilous the situation remains in Iraq, a suicide car bomber on Tuesday killed 24 people in an attack on a busy market in a town north of Baghdad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
While Daesh has lost territory in Iraq, it has also been ceding ground across the border in Syria, where it was forced from its last urban stronghold by regime forces last week.
Also on Wednesday, Iraqi officials have increased the death toll from a suicide attack in a contested town claimed by Baghdad and the Kurdish region to 36 people, up from 32.
Police and health officials said that 11 members of Iraq’s security forces were among the dead in the powerful explosion a day earlier in a marketplace in Tuz Khormato when a suicide bomber blew up his explosives-laden truck. He said 85 others were wounded.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release information.
No group has immediately claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attack. The town is about 210 kilometers (130 miles) north of Baghdad.
The top UN envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis condemned the attack as “cowardly tactics against innocent civilians” and described those behind it as “terrorists.”

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