On the night of 13 January, suspected IS gunmen abducted two shepherds in the vicinity of Fursan Village, located north of Tikrit in an area near the Baghdad – Mosul Highway (Highway 1). Hours later, Rescue Police personnel recovered the bodies of the individuals bearing gunshot wounds to the head and chest.
As opposed to very rural areas, the location of this attack was significant for its proximity to Tikrit City and Highway 1. This proved particularly bold given security responses in the aftermath of the 8 January suicide vehicle borne IED detonation at Aqwas Checkpoint, which is located along Highway 1 less than 1km from the area affected by the 13 January attack. While not affecting Highway 1 itself, and shifts from established target profiles are not anticipated, this abduction forms an important consideration for movement operation along this major route and other highways in Salah ad Din. Associated threats were historically headlined by a series of abductions and executionsinvolving fake checkpoints on the Baghdad – Kirkuk Highway (Highway 2) in the spring of 2018.
In a typical IS fashion, the organization is responding to operational shortfalls by promoting its focus on soft civilian targets and security personnel under isolated conditions. Reinforcing recent tactical successes, elusive IS cells based from support zones in the Jazeera Desert and Hamrin and Makhoul Mountains will undoubtedly continue to demonstrate their prowess conducting abductions affecting locals with alleged security and government affiliations for murder and intimidation purposes, as well as civilians for similar purposes and criminal ransom intent