Photo: Reuters

ISIS renews violence in Iraq

A funeral was held in Iraq’s Islamic holy city of Najaf for a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), who was among nine others killed in an attack by Islamic State (ISIS) militants.

The PMF, known as al-Ḥashd ash-Shaʿbī in Arabic, is a state-sponsored umbrella organization backed by Iran. It consists of about 40 predominantly Shi’ite Muslim factions that unified in 2014 and have been involved in almost every major battle against ISIS.

The militia member’s coffin was carried through the streets as mourners sang and chanted “there is no God but Allah,” while PMF soldiers saluted the casket as the procession passed en route to a cemetery for burial.

According to Iraq’s Security Mass Media Committee, the soldiers were killed on Friday (1 May 1) during the latest clashes with ISIS. One of the sites of violence was at a PMF checkpoint.

Iraqi forces are currently combating a fresh insurgency by ISIS, which has particularly risen since the outbreak of the coronavirus. While much of the violence erupted in northern areas once controlled by the radical Sunni extremists, there has been a spike in ISIS operations closer to Baghdad than since losing its self-proclaimed “Caliphate” over two years ago. This past weekend, simultaneous ISIS attacks on Iraqi security forces were staged throughout the country. On Sunday, the PMF came under attack in Dujail, which is just 70 kilometers from the capital.

PMF Senior Commander, Mohammed Tabatabaei, told Reuters that he wanted the Iraqi government to start conducting more offensive “proactive and unannounced operations, and activate the intelligence organs.”

Renewed violence in Iraq comes amid significant political turmoil, as Prime Minister-designate Mustapha al-Kadhimi struggles to form a new government. The parliament is expected to convene later today or tomorrow to vote on Kadhimi’s proposed cabinet. Approval would signify a breakthrough in Iraq’s political impasse since the government was ousted last year after months of deadly mass protests. Two previous appointees, Mohammed Allawi and Adnan al-Zurfi, both resigned the premiership after failing to gain sufficient support for their coalitions.

The country has been hard hit by economic fallout over coronavirus-related measures, amid freefalling global oil prices.