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Iraq: Eleven soldiers killed in Islamic State attack on base in Diyala province

Province's governor criticises the troops, alleging they were caught unprepared during overnight attack
Iraq declared the defeat of Islamic State in December 2017, but a low-level insurgency by the Sunni group has persisted in the country (AFP)

Eleven Iraqi soldiers were killed in an overnight attack by Islamic State (IS) fighters against their base in the eastern province of Diyala, a military source and provincial governor said Friday.

"Eleven soldiers... have been killed during an attack carried out by the Islamic State... targeting a base of the army," a senior military official based in Diyala told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The attack took place "around 2.30 am against a base in the Hawi al-Azim area," the source added.

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Diyala province governor Muthanna al-Tamimi confirmed the death toll, according to the Iraqi News Agency.

But he also hit out at the Iraqi army, alleging they were caught unprepared.

"The main reason [for this attack] is negligence on the part of soldiers, because the base is fortified," he said.

"There is a thermal camera, night vision goggles, and a concrete watch-tower."

"The terrorists exploited the cold and the negligence of the soldiers," he alleged, adding that the attackers then escaped to the neighbouring province of Salaheddin.

Low-level insurgency

Since the Iraqi government declared victory four years ago, IS have waged a low-level insurgency that has seen them hit military and civilian targets, especially in rural areas north of Baghdad around the city of Kirkuk, and in Diyala and Salaheddin.

On 3 December, at least nine Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga fighters and three brothers were killed in attacks claimed by IS in the northern Iraqi village of Khidir Jija, just south of Erbil.

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Four more peshmerga fighters were killed in another attack blamed on IS on 6 December.

At the end of November, five peshmergas were killed in a roadside bombing claimed by the Sunni group.

IS also claimed a bombing against a market in Sadr city, a Shia suburb of the capital Baghdad, that killed dozens of people in July last year.

IS also maintain a presence in Syria, especially in desert hideouts in the east of the country, where the Kurds maintain a semi-autonomous administration and the group continues to carry out attacks.

A UN report last year estimated that around 10,000 IS fighters remained active across Iraq and Syria.