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IS Gunmen Kill 11 Iraqi Troops         01/21 06:06

   

   BAGHDAD (AP) -- Gunmen from the Islamic State extremist group attacked an 
army barracks in a mountainous area north of Baghdad early Friday, killing 11 
soldiers as they slept, the Iraqi military and security officials said.

   The officials said the attack occurred in the Al-Azim district, an open area 
north of Baqouba in Diyala province. The circumstances of the attack were not 
immediately clear, but two officials who spoke to The Associated Press said 
Islamic State group militants broke into the barracks at 3 a.m. local time and 
shot dead the soldiers.

   The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren't authorized to 
issue official statements. An Iraqi military statement said the dead included 
an officer with the rank of lieutenant and 10 soldiers.

   The brazen attack more than 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the capital 
Baghdad was one of the deadliest targeting the Iraqi military in recent months.

   It came as clashes with IS militants outside a prison in neighboring Syria 
continued since late Thursday. The assault on the prison holding hundreds of IS 
detainees and attempted escape in Kurdish-held northeastern Syria was described 
as the biggest on a detention facility since the extremist group's territorial 
defeat.

   The Islamic State group was largely defeated in Iraq in 2017, and in Syria 
in 2019, although it remains active through sleeper cells in many areas. 
Militants from the Sunni Muslim extremist group still conduct operations, often 
targeting security forces, power stations and other infrastructure.

   In October, IS militants armed with machine guns raided a predominantly 
Shiite village in Diyala province, killing 11 civilians and wounding several 
others. Officials at the time said the attack occurred after the militants had 
kidnapped villagers and their demands for ransom were not met.

   The officials said army reinforcements were sent to the village where 
Friday's attack occurred, and security forces deployed in surrounding areas. 
More details were not immediately available.

   "We affirm that the blood of the heroic martyrs will not be in vain and that 
the response by our heroic army units will be very harsh," the Iraqi military 
statement said.

   IS attacks have been on the rise in recent months in both Iraq and 
neighboring Syria, where the group once set up a self-styled Islamic caliphate 
before being defeated by an international coalition.

   On Thursday evening, IS militants mounted a complex attack on one of the 
largest detention facilities in northeast Syria to try and free fighters from 
the group incarcerated there.

   Kurdish-led forces who control the Gweiran Prison in the city of Hassakeh, 
which houses about 3,000 inmates, said prisoners rioted and tried to escape 
while a car bomb went off outside the prison as gunmen clashed with security 
forces.

   A spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, Farhad Shami, said 
clashes continued into Friday in the area around the prison, adding that at 
least two members of his force were killed and four were missing.

   The fighters were led by foreign militants, not Syrians, many of whom spoke 
in Iraqi dialect, Shami said. So far 12 militants were confirmed killed, he 
added.

   The SDF said 89 militants who escaped were arrested. Another group of 
inmates staged a new escape attempt Friday, the SDF added.

   The US-led coalition carried out an airstrike after reported casualties 
among the Syrian-led Kurdish forces late Thursday.

   The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 20 
Kurdish security forces and prison guards were killed in the clashes, alongside 
six militants and five civilians. It described the attack as the most violent 
one committed by IS since its territorial defeat in 2019. The Observatory said 
the inmates are mostly in control of the prison, while Kurdish forces attempt 
to wrestle it back.

   In 2014, IS established a self-declared Islamic caliphate that covered large 
parts of Iraq and Syria. The ensuing war against them lasted several years and 
left large parts of the two neighboring countries in ruins. It also left 
U.S.-allied Kurdish authorities in control of eastern and northeastern Syria, 
with a small presence of several hundred American forces still deployed there.

 
 
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