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Unidentified gunmen abduct two individuals on highway south of Kirkuk

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An abduction was reported along a key route south of Kirkuk city. At around 23:00 on 4 September, two unidentified masked armed individuals abducted two Kurdish civilians on Baghdad – Kirkuk Highway (Highway 2) near the Garmiyan Residential Complex, located south of Daquq town. Anecdotal reporting claimed the two abductees were travelling to assist a relative who had mechanical issues with his vehicle. This incident stands out as the first abduction reported on Highway 2 since an incident in Diyala province on 4 February. The authorship and motive for the 4 September incident was unclear. The apparently opportunistic target selection, and lack of confirmed security affiliations, promotes the likelihood of perpetration by a criminal actor for ransom purposes.

IS perpetration is also a possibility. This abduction occurred one day after IS gunmen abducted a village mukhtar in a suburb of Hawija. IS capabilities to conduct sophisticated attacks in and around Daquq town have been well documented in the recent past. IS conducted multiple headlining ambushes and abductions involving fake checkpoints on Highway 2 in 2018. Subsequent improvements in security measures degraded associated attack capabilities. The lack of clear security affiliations for the targets in the 4 September incident, a key element indicative of murder and intimidation intent, does not negate alternative motives of ransom for threat finance.

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