ISIS Fighter Kills Family of Six in Iraq as Troops Hunt Down Last of Islamic State

A suicide bomber loyal to the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) managed to kill an entire family as he fled Iraqi forces sweeping the countryside for the last of the jihadists, according to local media.

Iraqi Major General Qasim al-Mohammadi, head of the al-Jazeera operations command in the western province of Anbar, told Al-Sumariya News that his forces faced an ISIS surprise attack in the city of al-Baghdadi on Thursday, less than 24 hours after they drove the militants out of the area, according to London-based, Arabic-language newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. Iraqi troops and militiamen from the Iran-backed, majority-Shiite Muslim Popular Mobilization Forces were reportedly able to kill four fighters strapped with explosive vests, but a fifth got away and ultimately fled into a nearby home. He blew himself up, killing a family of six.

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“The security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces supporting them were able to besiege five suicide bombers in the area of Baghdadi. Four of them were killed while the fifth suicide bomber detonated himself inside a house, killing a family of six people, which included a father, his wife and four of his children,” Mohammadi said, as quoted by the state-run General Organization of Syrian Radio and Television.

Mohammadi said the fighters had “infiltrated al-Baghdadi through the desert,” according to Egypt’s Al-Fager media outlet. ISIS’s Anbar branch also confirmed the incident via its official Amaq News Agency, but referenced only four suicide bombers that caused “deaths and injuries among Iraqi forces.” The jihadist agency named the four “soldiers of the caliphate” and shared photographs on social media of three of them posing with Kalashnikov rifles.

With the help of Kurdish fighters and a U.S.-led coalition, the Iraqi military and allied militias have largely reclaimed the country, nearly half of which fell under ISIS control in 2014. That year, a number of major cities were overrun by the group, which has its origins in an earlier movement, Al-Qaeda in Iraq. ISIS made international headlines when it took control of Iraq’s second city of Mosul and its elusive leader, Sunni Muslim cleric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, called on Muslims around the world to join his self-styled caliphate from the city’s Grand al-Nuri Mosque.

The mosque, along with much else in the city, was leveled when Mosul became the target of a nearly nine-month battle to dislodge ISIS. Between ISIS brutality, intense firefights among fighters and U.S. air strikes, what has been described as one of the biggest battles of the 21st century killed over 6,300 civilians. This adds to the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the country during more than 15 years of war.

GettyImages-823037284 Iraqis check the remains of the bodies of victims found under the rubble of buildings in western Mosul’s Zanjili district on July 26, 2017. The country continues to reel from nearly 16 consecutive years of warfare conducted by the U.S. military and jihadists such as the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), which grew out of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

Even after ISIS has been declared defeated in Mosul, its supporters continue to haunt pockets of the country. This is evidenced by Thursday’s incident, as well as the group’s brief but deadly takeover of the village of Imam al-Gharbi south of Mosul earlier this month. The U.S. military also continues to bomb suspected ISIS positions in Iraq on a near daily basis.

Citing defense officials, the Associated Press reported Friday that there are up to 4,000 ISIS fighters and 3,000 paid supporters remaining in Iraq, as well as up to 7,000 fighters and 5,000 other affiliates in neighboring Syria, where the group’s existence is also threatened by a number of forces. The number is slightly lower than that provided last week to Newsweek by U.S. Central Command Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve, which placed the number at between 12,000 and 15,000, and may have been updated to account for losses incurred during the battle of Mosul.