ERBIL — The Iraqi Joint Operations Command has reported the presence of an estimated 500 Islamic State (IS) militants still in the country, with the majority believed to be in the vicinity of the disputed Kurdish province of Kirkuk.
Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesperson for the Joint Operations Command, said in a statement that the Islamic State has significantly diminished in terms of military capabilities but has been successful in recruiting new fighters. The majority of these recruits are suspected to be located in the Wadi region, the Valley of Olives, and Mount Hamrin.
Khafaji noted that military operations, coupled with targeted airstrikes in these regions, have achieved substantial security gains, resulting in the elimination of numerous IS cells and the loss of several prominent leaders.
Yahya Rassoul, spokesperson for the Iraqi Armed Forces, previously said in a similar statement that the number of IS fighters in Iraq does not exceed 700 individuals, organized into three to seven separate detachments.
The Iraqi Joint Operations Commander reported that over 100 Islamic State fighters have been killed in Iraq since the beginning of the year.
In 2014, the Islamic State launched an attack on Iraq, gaining control over a significant portion of the country. With support from the US-led Coalition, Iraqi and Kurdistan Region Peshmerga forces defeated IS in late 2017. However, the extremist group continues to pose a threat through sleeper cells, targeting civilians and security forces in various regions of Iraq.