On the evening of 12 December, according to the Counter-Terrorism Service Spokesperson Sabah al-Nu’man, a CF airstrike killed an IS security emir and 12 of his associates in an unspecified area north of Baghdad. The IS security emir was identified as Abu Maryam and was allegedly responsible for orchestrating several unspecified terrorist attacks. Although infrequent, airstrikes in the northern Baghdad Belt are historically common and highlight the importance of efforts to disrupt IS networks in this active sector. The following morning, Iraqi Army units shot and killed an IS militant armed with a suicide vest and light weapons comprised of an unspecified rifle and a handgun during an operation in the Tabi area of Tarmiyah District. Security sources added that another individual who was escorting the suicide operative managed to flee the area, with an ensuing search operation intent on locating the individual. No casualties were reported amongst security personnel.
Given the proximity of the airstrike and ensuing successful interdiction, it is somewhat possible that the IS militants were seeking refuge following the airstrike but later interdicted during the follow-on security operation the next day. Furthermore, it is more likely that the explosive vest was worn as a last resort in order to avoid capture as opposed to an imminent threat. Although it is difficult to verify the claimed number of IS casualties, it is of little doubt that an IS cell in this active sector of the Baghdad Belt was effectively disrupted. Despite this positive counter-terrorism operation, cautious optimism must be applied given the resilient nature of IS and the organization’s ability to reconstitute following notable setbacks.