Iraq Says 10 Isis Militants Killed in Tunnel near Kirkuk

Iraq Says 10 Isis Militants Killed in Tunnel near Kirkuk

Iraqi forces said they killed 10 members of the Islamic State (ISIS) group in a tunnel near the city of Kirkuk on Saturday (December 9), the same day that the prime minister declared the war on ISIS over.

"Brigade 16 of the Hashed al-Shaabi found a tunnel on the outskirts of Rashad and killed 10 IS suicide bomber," the pro-government paramilitary group said in a statement, adding that armaments were recovered.

The capture of Rashad, south of the city of Kirkuk, was announced on October 2.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory Saturday in the three-year war to expel ISIS from Iraq, saying the jihadists had been routed from their last pockets on the border with Syria.

Hisham al-Hashemi, an expert on jihadist groups, warned however that ISIS still posed a threat by retaining arms caches in uninhabited desert zones.

The jihadists' defeat is a massive turnaround for an organization that in 2014 ruled over seven million people in a territory as big as Italy encompassing large parts of Syria and nearly a third of Iraq.

On the Syrian side of the border, ISIS is under massive pressure too.

On Thursday, Russia's defence ministry said its mission in support of the Syrian regime to oust ISIS had been "accomplished" and the country was "completely liberated".

In the border region, pro-government forces and US-backed Kurdish-led forces are conducting operations to clear ISIS militants from the countryside north of the Euphrates valley after ousting them from all Syrian towns.

However the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Saturday said ISIS militants had managed to seize territory in Syira's Idlib province after clashes with rival jihadists, four years after being expelled from the region.