On the early evening hours of 6 January, a number of IS fighters wearing military uniforms, riding as many as eight motorcycles, abducted seven individuals from Tal Kusaybah Village, located along the Tikrit – Tuz Road near the Hamrin Mountains. Three of the abducted individuals were freed or released. ISF cordoned the area and launched a search operation for the remaining four individuals. Salah ad Din Emergency Police Commander identified the seven abductees as Hashd al-Ashairi members. The official claimed that his forces were able to pursue the insurgents, killing four militants, and freeing three abductees. The remaining insurgents were believed to have withdrawn to the Hamrin Mountains.
In conjunction with the abductions of dozens of individuals in late December, a spike in IED activity in early January, and other notable activity, IS militants prominently promoted attack capabilities in the historic Hawija pocket and adjacent security environments of Salah ad Din in recent weeks. Other significant attacks included a vehicle borne IED detonation in Tal Afar City, a deadly raid west of Mosul, and multiple complex attacks in hotspots of Diyala. Assessed overarching priorities pertain to established IS intent to demonstrate an enduring terrorist threat following the conclusion of major anti-IS operations in late 2017. Continued incremental reductions in overall IS capabilities culminated with reports at the end of 2018 indicating the lowest casualty levels in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.