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Iraqi soldiers search for IS along Tigris River

Iraqi army soldiers look for IS fighters in Samarra, where IS has been active during the coronavirus lockdown in the country.

The Iraqi army is not known for its aquatic capabilities, but Iraqi soldiers in boats searched for Islamic State (IS) fighters along the Tigris River last week.

On Friday, the spokesman for the US-led anti-IS coalition, which works with Iraqi security forces, tweeted pictures of Iraqi soldiers operating a motorboat as they conducted search operations targeting members of the group near the city of Samarra in central Iraq.

“Samarra operation command arrives to Samarra to search for Daesh members … great work,” wrote the coalition’s American spokesman, Col. Myles B. Caggins III, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The coalition, officially known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, regularly praises Iraq’s armed forces on social media. Still, there is pressure from some in Iraq for US troops to withdraw from the country; the Iraqi parliament voted to expel US forces from Iraq in January after Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in Baghdad via a US airstrike. The US military continues to operate alongside Iraqi forces, but has turned over several bases to its Iraqi counterparts this year. Other European members of the coalition have left the country due to the coronavirus.

The Iraqi army soldiers conducted searches of the river itself as well as the land adjoining it.

Iraqi media outlets reported Thursday that military operations took place near Samarra. Iraqakhbar reported that the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Units and Iraqi federal police searched for “terrorists” northeast of the city. Buratha News Agency posted an article with the same information.

IS has increased its activity in Iraq amid the coronavirus lockdown in the country, shifting from attacks on small villages in previous months to fighting Iraqi security forces directly.

The Iraqi government’s Security Media Cell reported an anti-IS operation in Samarra on Monday.

Samarra is one of the areas where IS has remained most active since its territorial defeat in late 2017.

Samarra is a focal point for tensions in Iraq between Shiiite and Sunni Muslims, and is a Sunni-majority area. Last year, Sunni property owners near a holy shrine in the city said they felt pressured by Shiite religious authorities controlling the shrine to sell their land below market value.

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