This post was written by Connor Balough
Three Islamic State militants setting up an ambush in a bitterly contested area of northern Iraq were killed by a herd of stampeding boars, local leaders say.
Sheikh Anwar al-Assi, a chief of the local Ubaid tribe and supervisor of anti-ISIS forces, told The Times of London the militants were hiding on the edge of a field about 50 miles southwest of Kirkuk when the boars overwhelmed them Sunday. Five other militants were injured, al-Assi said. He said the group was poised to attack a band of local tribesmen who had fled to nearby mountains since militants seized the town of Hawija three years ago.
“It is likely their movement disturbed a herd of wild pigs, which inhabit the area as well as the nearby cornfields,” he said.
Al-Assi said the militants had summarily executed 25 people attempting to flee the militant’s would-be caliphate in the three days before the boars attacked. Hawija, about 100 miles south of Mosul, sees dozens of residents flee to Kurdish Kirkuk daily, and the Iraqi military has planned to launch an offensive in the region after a laborious effort to liberate Mosul is completed.
“We know that a massacre took place in Hawija district through our sources,” al-Assi told the Times. “This will not be ISIS’s last massacre against citizens.”
Hawija is strategically located east of the road from Mosul to Baghdad, on the edge of the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. U.S.-backed troops launched the effort to drive the militants out of Mosul in October. Eastern Mosul was liberated in January, and the Iraqi military claimed Tuesday it had taken control of the al-Tanek neighborhood, the largest on the western side of the city.
Kirkuk Gov. Najmaldin Karim renewed calls to the Iraqi army and government to free Hawija.
“The suffering of the people of Hawija and its surrounding areas is intolerable,” he told The Times.
Meanwhile, President Trump is hammering ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and local Afghans couldn’t be happier.
The Moab, or Mother Of All Bombs, was used on a ISIS hideout and massive mountain complex reportedly built by the CIA for Osama Bin Laden’s Mujahadeen in the 80s during their war against the Soviet Union.
Recently though ISIS had taken control of the cave fortress from the Taliban, which is at war with both the Afghan government and Islamic State.
ISIS had solidified their entire Afghan forces, numbering about 1000 soldiers and affiliates, in the fortress, thinking that US bombs typically used would not be enough to knock them out of hiding. Afghan soldiers had been battling the militants that riddled the mountains there for the past month. Unable to penetrate the cave complex, they called in for US support.
This is the first time the Moab has been used in the field of combat.
A week after US forces dropped the 21,600-pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon, American officials have released little information about the strike or its aftermath, and security forces in the area continue to block access to the site.
Reports from the region indicate that several of the ISIS fighters slain were from neighboring countries.
An Afghan security source told the country’s TOLO news agency that most of the militants killed in the bombing were members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan or the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Alongside dozens of Pakistanis thought to have been killed in the strike, 12 Tajiks and 13 Indian nationals who had joined ISIS are believed to have been killed, according to TOLO.
Hindustan Times reported that an Afghan security official said 13 ISIS commanders were killed — at least two of whom were from India.
At least 24 Indian nationals are thought to have joined ISIS in eastern Afghanistan. While two reportedly were killed in the weeks before the MOAB strike, relatives of the others say they have yet to hear from them.
ISIS branches in Afghanistan expanded in 2015 and had 2,000 to 3,000 members before Afghan military operations and US-led airstrikes checked their advances. Up until the MOAB strike however there were thought to be about 700 ISIS fighters in the country, limited mainly somewhere in three districts in Nangarhar, the province where the MOAB was dropped.
The complete radio silence of ISIS in the region seems to confirm that the cave complex was were ISIS remnants were.