Islamic State fighters disguised as Iraqi soldiers attacked pro-government militia on Monday, killing at least 27 troops in an ambush near the city of Kirkuk, officials said.
Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, an association of mostly Shiite militias, said the attack took place southwest of Kirkuk, where the paramilitaries were conducting night missions. The attackers were dressed in army uniforms and manning a fake checkpoint, allowing them to surprise the militia group as it approached.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency, according to the Associated Press.
Iraq declared victory over ISIS in December after three years of intense fighting. At its peak, the group had seized nearly one-third of Iraqi territory and controlled the major urban center of Mosul in northern Iraq.
Though it no longer controls territory, ISIS retains the ability to carry out guerrilla-style attacks and bombings throughout the country. Last month, ISIS set off back-to-back bombs in central Baghdad, killing at least 38 people.
Karim al-Nouri, a PMF spokesman, called Monday’s attack a “heinous crime” and said tighter scrutiny of Iraqis returning from former ISIS-held territory was needed.
The attack comes a week after NATO allies agreed on an enhanced “train and advise” mission in Iraq, part of a larger effort to help the country stabilize and rebuild after the devastating war against ISIS. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the goal of the NATO mission is to train Iraqis to “protect their people against an uprising of another type of terrorism organization.”
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