Iraq air strikes kill nine suspects in deadly ISIS attack

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Iraqi air strikes on Saturday killed nine suspected “terrorists” implicated in a deadly ISIS attack on an army base earlier this month, the military said.

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The January 21 attack, which killed 11 soldiers in Hawi al-Azim in the eastern province of Diyala, was the deadliest claimed by the extremists in Iraq this year.

In a statement released late Saturday, the military said it had “identified the exact whereabouts in Hawi al-Azim of the terrorist group which perpetrated this criminal act”.

“Three precision strikes by Iraqi F-16s have so far killed nine terrorist elements,” the statement said, adding that the mission was still underway.

ISIS overran large swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria in 2014, declaring a new “caliphate” for Muslims, before Baghdad declared victory in late 2017 after a grinding campaign.

But a low-level insurgency by the extremists has persisted, flaring up particularly in rural areas north of Baghdad around the city of Kirkuk, and in the eastern provinces of Diyala and Salaheddin.

The base attack coincided with a brazen prison break attempt over the border in Syria that has triggered days of clashes between ISIS fighters and Kurdish forces backed by US-led coalition troops and aircraft.

The fighting in and around Ghwayran prison in the northeastern city of Hasakeh has killed at least 270 people, including around 189 extremists, 74 Kurdish-led fighters and seven civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

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