IS members, disguised as soldiers, attack Hashed Al-Shaabi unit

MOSUL: A general view shows destruction in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Iraq received pledges totalling $30 billion at an international conference for reconstruction of the war-torn country, the host Kuwait announced. —AFP

BAGHDAD: The Islamic State group killed 27 pro-government fighters in an ambush in Iraq, their paramilitary group said yesterday, underlining the threat still posed by the jihadists despite Baghdad's declaration of victory. IS members, disguised as soldiers, attacked a Hashed Al-Shaabi unit in the Hawija region about 300 kilometres (185 miles) 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," added the Hashed, a key partner of the government in the battle against IS.

The paramilitary 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 jihadists 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 jihadists' last urban bastion in northern Iraq.Iraq in December declared victory against IS after a years-long battle to retake large swathes of territory the extremists had seized in 2014. But the Hashed says IS has not completely disappeared and that "sleeper cells" have been fighting a guerrilla war against it.

Turkish woman sentenced

Meanwhile, an Iraqi court has sentenced a Turkish woman to death by hanging for joining Islamic State, a spokesman for the criminal court in Baghdad said in a statement yesterday. Ten other women of various nationalities were sentenced to life in prison, he said. All the verdicts can be appealed. "The court has issued ten verdicts of life in prison against ten women after convicting them of terrorism, and sentenced to death by hanging another terrorist who holds Turkish citizenship," said Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar.

Thousands of foreigners have been fighting on behalf of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. A German woman was sentenced to death last month for belonging to the group and a Russian fighter was also sentenced to death in Iraq last year for joining the hardline group. Iraq declared victory in December over Islamic State, which had seized control of nearly a third of the country in 2014. The group has been driven out of all population centres it once controlled on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, but members have continued to carry out bombings and other attacks in Iraq.- Agencies