Prime minister terms deal ‘unacceptable,’ as activists say it will give time for militants to regroup
Iraqis on Tuesday denounced a deal allowing Islamic State group fighters to evacuate a Syrian-Lebanese frontier region towards the Iraqi border.
Hundreds of jihadists started leaving the area on Monday, heading by bus for Syria’s eastern province of Deir Ezzor, which borders Iraq and is the only Syrian province still under I.S. control.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday the deal was “unacceptable” and an “insult to the Iraqi people.” He said Iraq was fighting the jihadists, not sending them to Syria.
Iraqi forces, who seized second city Mosul from I.S. in July after a nine-month battle, are fighting the last pocket of jihadists in the northern province of Nineveh. Abadi has said Iraqi forces expect to announce victory in the city of Tal Afar within days. That would see it dislodged from all but a few scattered Iraqi towns—including several close to the border with Syria’s Deir Ezzor.
Iraqi social media users expressed outrage at the evacuation deal, which came a week into a Lebanese army offensive against I.S. and a joint Syrian army and Hezbollah operation against the group on Syrian territory.
In a video posted on Facebook, activist Stephen Nabil called it an “injustice.” He said it would allow hundreds of jihadists to deploy along an “insecure” border, close to three Iraqi desert towns still under I.S. control.
“These are not normal people, and we know what a single car [bomb] or one suicide bomber can do in Baghdad,” he wrote.
On Monday, an I.S.-claimed bombing in the Iraqi capital killed 11 people.
Iraqi analyst Hisham al-Hashimi called the evacuation deal “unjust.”
“The selfish ally is throwing Daesh from Lebanon into Iraq,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for the group. “They know that Iraqis destroyed their second biggest city [Mosul] so that Daesh fighters would not escape and Iraq’s neighbors would not be harmed,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
Journalist Salma al-Khafaji said the evacuation could allow a “restructuring and reorganization of Daesh, throwing them into a new battle against Iraq.”