Overnight between 1-2 May, IS militants conducted coordinated attacks against PMF positions in suburbs of Samarra in southern Salah ad Din province. At approximately 23:00, approximately five IS gunmen exploiting heavily vegetated terrain, infiltrated the Mukayshifa area, located north of Samarra along the Tigris River. The gunmen overran a small outpost manned by Sunni PMF members from the Albu Esa tribe and another tribe, killing at least six PMF members and torching a caravan. One hour afterwards, an IED detonated against responding forces from the 35th Quwat al-Shaheed al-Sadr PMF Brigade. As a result, three PMF were killed and four others were wounded. IS militants also torched some crops as they fled.
According to the Security Media Cell, PMF, and other official security sources, 10 PMF members were killed during the attacks in the province as the most widely repeated total. As many as 13 fatalities were reported according to unofficial sources, with additional refinements possible.
Iraqi Army Aviation aircraft responded and bombarded nearby areas. Unnamed PMF-affiliated sources claimed three IS fighters were later killed in a nearby area, including one account citing a PMF Kornet missile detachment. Images released on social media depicted corpses, but official security sources did not confirm IS casualties. Associated engagements reportedly continued for approximately three hours, with the Mukayshifa area not declared secure until dawn on 2 May.
In another overnight attack, IS gunmen targeted the 41st Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq PMF Brigade in Tal al-Thahab village of the Yathrib sub-district, located southeast of Balad. One PMF member was killed. Unconfirmed reports cited additional attacks in the Yathrib, Mutabyijah, and Daur areas of southern and eastern Salah ad Din province. These accounts likely involved errant references to the two confirmed attacks given the proximity of referenced areas. No additional casualties were reported accordingly.
Security officials vow to respond to IS threats as part of initial reactions:
Formal IS statements claiming responsibility for the coordinated attacks are anticipated and will be updated when available.
Overnight between 1-2 May, heavy reinforcements were deployed to affected suburbs of Samarra, particularly the Mukayshifa area. This included Counter-Terrorism Service and SWAT units from Baghdad, as well as Iraqi Army, Federal Police, Emergency Police, and PMF units. Between the night of 1 May and morning of 2 May, Iraqi Army Aviation and artillery units bombarded suspected IS locations on several islands in the Tigris River extending from suburbs south of Mosul towards affected areas north of Samarra. Security forces conducted large-scale cordon and search operations in affected areas. No IS casualties were initially claimed for these knee-jerk responses.
The Joint Operations Command vowed to pursue IS remnants in the aftermath of the attack. Large-scale security operations are anticipated in Salah ad Din province over the near-term, along with an elevated potential for inflated security successes. This incident follows recent praise for an airstrike on 19 April that reportedly killed 14 insurgents assembled on an island in the Tigris River located south of Tikrit. It is possible that the locations selected for the 1 May attacks further south were influenced by IS retaliatory intent. Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Kadhimi expressed his condolences to the families of the fallen on Twitter. “Their blood will not go in vain,” the statement said. “Our security forces will continue to pursue terrorists until we clear our land of its abomination.”
For further discussions including detailed analysis on the spike in IS activity during Ramadan please see our full report.