At least 31 people were killed, including 14 police officers in attacks overnight in Iraq’s Tikrit that were carried out by the Islamic State militants (ISIS) as a revenge for their huge losses in Mosul battle.
At the height of its power two years ago, Islamic State ruled over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of Baghdad in Iraq.
However, ISIS’s territory is shrinking rapidly since last year as the US-led coalition, the Turkish-backed forces, and the Russian-backed Assad regime forces have fierce fights against its forces in both Syria and Iraq.
The United States is providing air and ground support to Iraqi and Kurdish forces trying to dislodge the hardline group from Mosul.
Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19.
Islamic State militants retreated across the Tigris river to western districts of Mosul, where they are using mortars, sniper fire, booby traps and suicide car bombs to fight the offensive carried out by a 100,000-strong force made up of Iraqi armed forces, regional Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and Iranian-trained Shi’ite paramilitary groups.
ISIS militants had grave losses in western Mosul despite their fierce resistance. Therefore, they regularly target civilian areas under government control in the east with mortars and grenades dropped from drones, in addition to suicide attacks in other Iraqi cities as a revenge.
A new attack in Tikrit
At least 31 people were killed, including 14 police officers, and more than 40 wounded in attacks overnight in Tikrit on April 5.
The militants wore police uniforms and used a police vehicle to enter the city, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police colonel Khalid Mahmoud told Reuters. He said there were around 10 attackers, including two suicide bombers.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency said seven suicide fighters attacked a police position and the home of the head of the city’s counter-terrorism service, who was killed. The assailants blew themselves up when they ran out of ammunition, it said.
A total of 31 bodies were taken to hospital, including 14 policemen, said Nawfal Mustafa, a doctor at the city’s main hospital. The death toll rose during the morning as the bodies of civilians killed in their shops were found.
The attacks targeted a police checkpoint and the house of a police colonel, who was killed with four members of his family, officers said.
Two suicide attackers detonated their vests when surrounded by police, and three others were killed in separate clashes.
Five militants are thought to be hiding and Mahmoud said Tikrit authorities had declared a curfew on Wednesday. Sporadic gunfire could be heard in the morning.
Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias drove the militants away from Tikrit two years ago. Tikrit is the home region of Saddam Hussein, the former president toppled in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Recent attacks in Baghdad and Tikrit
A series of deadly attacks by ISIS has hit the cities of Baghdad and Tikrit in March.
A suicide truck bomber targeted a police checkpoint in Iraq’s Baghdad on March 29, killing 17 people and wounding at least 60 others.
The bomber detonated the vehicle – an oil tanker laden with explosives, security, and hospital officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity under regulations.
Three policemen were among the dead while the rest were civilians, and some police officers were also wounded, the officials said.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State (ISIS) group has carried out similar attacks in the past.
A powerful blast hit Baghdad also on March 15, leaving at least 18 people dead, 22 injured, sources in the local law enforcement authorities told Sputnik Arabic.
According to the source, a car rigged with explosives exploded in the Northern part of Baghdad.
In addition, another explosion occurred on a crowded street in the Iraqi city of Tikrit at the same time as the blast in the capital.
“Eight are killed and 52 are wounded from the Tikrit al-Atibaa street attack,” Reuters cited governorate media director saying.
The car was parked in al-Atibaa Street (“Doctors Street” in English) in downtown Tikrit, which is often crowded as it has many clinics.
Some observers believe Islamic State have begun to escalate attacks outside the city of Mosul, where the group has been losing ground and personnel since October, so as to relieve pressure by government forces on that front and to divert attention from group losses.
They are concerned that the group could, however, shift to a guerilla-style war and lone wolf attacks after the recapture of Mosul.
Previous attacks by ISIS
At least 26 people have been killed in suicide bomb explosions on March 8 at a wedding party in a village near the Iraqi city of Tikrit, the new chapter in a series of deadly ones that rocked Iraq’s cities in retaliation for ISIS major losses in Mosul battle.
A police source told Reuters that two blasts hit the wedding and two more targeted security forces at the scene shortly afterwards. There were ongoing clashes between security forces and fighters in the area, he said.
ISIS said it had targeted a gathering of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a coalition of mostly Shia paramilitaries backed by Iran.
In a post on its channels on the messaging app Telegram, ISIS said the attackers had clashed with members of the group before detonating their explosives.
In addition, Baghdad was attacked several times.
In the deadliest attack in 2017, a car filled with explosives blew up on Feb. 16 in southern Baghdad, killing at least 51 people and wounding 55 adding more victims to the growing death list this month.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the bombing in an online statement, as a revenge while its forces are being surrounded in Mosul city.
Another four attacks in and around Baghdad on Feb. 16 killed eight people and wounded around 30, police and medical officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
On Feb. 15, a suicide bomber detonated a car loaded with explosives in northern Baghdad on Wednesday killing at least nine people.
The powerful blast in the Habibiya area, near Sadr City which is a Shia-majority neighborhood in the Iraqi capital, killing at least nine people while thirty others were wounded.
The explosion targeted a crowded street full of garages and used car dealers.
Suicide bombings on January 8 hit two marketplaces in eastern Baghdad killed at least 20 people. ISIS claimed the first attack in an online statement saying the bomber had targeted “a gathering of Shia” in Jamila.
On January 2, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide car bombing that killed 39 people in a busy market in Sadr City.