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ISIS Threatens Iraq’s Elections

ISIS Threatens Iraq’s Elections

Tuesday, 24 April, 2018 - 08:00
A bus displays a poster advising people to check their voting information ahead of Iraq's parliamentary elections. (AFP)
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa
Unlike the previous times when ISIS threatened to strike Iraqi elections, the warning launched by the terrorist group’s spokesman Abul Hassan al-Muhajer was ignored by official authorities and blocs competing in the electoral race.

ISIS, and previously Al-Qaeda, had routinely warned Iraqis against participating in elections, by assassinating a number of candidates or carrying out suicide attacks at polling stations.

In an audio message released on Sunday, Muhajer warned that anyone who runs or votes in the May 12 election would be targeted.

Although ISIS no longer has a declared presence on Iraqi soil, it continues to operate in desert areas along the Iraqi-Syrian-Jordanian border or in areas adjacent to the governorates of Kirkuk and Salaheddine.

The Joint Operations Command described the threats launched by the ISIS spokesman as attempts by the defeated organization to lift the morale of its members.

“This is not the first time that elections are being held in Iraq, and there are now plans to secure the polling stations. We have preemptive operations by our units, including searches, raids and arrests, and the destruction of the remaining ISIS cells,” said Brigadier General Yehya Rasoul in a statement.

“We are dealing with a terrorist enemy and we assure the Iraqi people that the Iraqi forces are exerting great effort and will secure the polling stations completely,” he added.

In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, strategy expert Dr. Hisham al-Hashemi, who is specialized in armed groups, noted that this was Muhajer’s third speech. He was chosen as an alternative to the former spokesman, who was assassinated in December 2016.

Asked whether ISIS, after all the losses it incurred in Iraq, was able to pose a serious threat to the Iraqi elections, Hashemi said: “All it can do is suicide operations here or there, in addition to some assassinations.”

He warned that ISIS has already executed several assassination attempts against candidates in different governorates.

Iraqi politicians, including Mohammed Jamil Al-Mayahi and Dr. Qahtan al-Jabouri, who are both spokesmen for two different Iraqi coalitions, stressed that ISIS has not been able to obstruct democratic political life in Baghdad.

“ISIS threatens and will continue to threaten because what the Iraqis are doing is contrary to its convictions and dark ideas,” Jabouri said in comments to Asharq Al-Awsat.

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