Operation ‘Revenge of the Martyrs’ has seen the deployment of hundreds of vehicles
In the first days of July the Iraqi Security Forces launched a large operation to clear Islamic State from dozens of villages and rural areas in Iraq between Baghdad and Kirkuk. The operation is the largest of its kind since Baghdad declared major anti-ISIS operations had ended in December 2017.
The “Revenge of the Martyrs (عملية ثأر الشهداء) was supposed to be in response to a spate of recent killings, including the ISIS kidnapping and execution of Shammar tribesmen in June.
The operation claimed early successes. On July 5 the Federal Police claimed to have cleared 63 villages. They claimed to also encounter a lot of resistance from conventional arms, including mortars.
On the fourth day of the operation the commanders said ISIS was “fleeing and not facing our security forces,” Diyala operations chief Lieutenant General Mezher al-Azzawi said. “The operation is continuing until the Hamrin area is clear.”
Helicopters, artillery and rocket launchers were employed and a variety of units participated, including Federal Police, special operations forces, brigade 56 of the PMU. The claims of the number of villages “cleared” and amount of ISIS ordinance discovered points to a very major threat from ISIS. According to one post 171 villages were cleared and only 6 terrorists killed, while 32 weapons caches were found, including IEDs, VBIEDs and arms. Some following the operation felt it had achieved little. Joel Wing writes on July 10: “56 incidents 58 killed 91 wounded 1st wk of July in Iraq Revenge of the Martyrs & 3 other sweeps in Diyala & Salahaddin had no real effect upon security.”
By July 12 the spokesman of the operation was still speaking of “hunting down” ISIS cells. The operation is spread over three governorates and the terror it is confronting affects two others. It continues as Iraq still does not have a government after elections.