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Daesh ambush kills 27 pro-government fighters in Iraq

By AFP - Feb 19,2018 - Last updated at Feb 19,2018

BAGHDAD — The Daesh group killed 27 members of a paramilitary group in an ambush in Iraq, the pro-government force said Monday, underlining the threat still posed by the extremists despite Baghdad's declaration of victory.

Daesh members disguised as soldiers attacked a Hashed Al Shaabi unit in the Hawija region about 300 kilometres north of Baghdad on Sunday evening, the auxiliary force said in a statement.

"The attackers were dressed in military uniforms and during the fighting 27 of our heroes were martyred," said the Hashed, a key partner of the government in the battle against Daesh.

The extremist group, which has suffered a string of battlefield defeats in Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack in an online statement.

The Hashed said the unit was conducting operations to "arrest terrorists and dismantle sleeping cells" around the city, in the province of Kirkuk.

A Hashed official who asked to remain anonymous told AFP the militants, disguised as soldiers, had set up a checkpoint close to Hawija.

They asked the Hashed paramilitaries to stop, get out of their vehicles and stand beside the road, on the pretext of conducting a search.

They then shot the Hashed fighters and fled, the official said. 

Reinforcements arrived too late to stop the attack.

A senior police officer in the province, who also asked not to be named, said most of the bodies had been beheaded.

It was the deadliest attack against Hashed fighters since October when pro-government forces retook Hawija, which was the extremists’ last urban bastion in northern Iraq.

Iraq in December declared victory against Daesh after a years-long battle to retake large swathes of territory the extremists had seized in 2014.

But the Hashed says Daesh has not completely disappeared and that "sleeper cells" have been fighting a guerrilla war against it.

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