ISIL attack kills Hashd al-Shaabi forces in Iraq
At least 10 members of the Hashd al-Shaabi forces have been killed in a coordinated attack carried out by the ISIL (ISIS) group in Iraq's Salahaddin province.
According to Hashd and Iraqi state media early on Saturday, clashes erupted between the paramilitary unit, also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, and ISIL on several fronts in the town of Mekeeshfa and the city of Balad.
"The Popular mobilisation forces and security forces have killed and wounded a number of ISIL fighters after being exposed to significant attacks on Balad and Mekeeshfah south of Tikrit," the Hashd said in a statement later on Saturday.
"The Hashd also lost 10 members, while several others were wounded in clashes between the two sides," it said, adding that its forces had managed to push back ISIL after the arrival of air and land reinforcements in the area.
According to the Hashd statement, nine members of the Tigris Regiment were killed in Mekeeshfah and two others were wounded, while one member of Brigade 41 was killed in Tal al-Dahab area.
The coordinated assault is believed to be one of the largest ISIL attacks since the armed group was defeated in December 2017.
The Hashd al-Shaabi, founded as a loose network of Shia-majority factions, played a crucial role in defeating ISIL, which occupied a large swath of territory in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2017.
ISIL attacks in Iraq have been on the rise since April compared with previous months this year.
In a statement published by local media, Iraq's Prime Minister-designate Mustafa al-Kadhimi paid tribute to families of those who were killed.
"With great sadness, we received news of the martyrdom of a group heroes from among the Hashd al-Shaabi who died defending their homeland in the face of ISIL attacks in the Mekeeshfah and Balad areas north of Baghdad."
He also took the opportunity to call on Iraq's political factions to agree on a new government ahead of his looming 30-day deadline to form a new cabinet by May 9.
"This attack reflects a desperate attempt to capitalise on the state of political rivalry which has impeded the formation of a new government that will work to protect and secure its citizens."
Al-Kadhimi had announced on Wednesday that he sent his proposed government programme to Parliament in Baghdad, adding that names of candidates for various ministerial posts would be submitted soon. Reports circulated on Friday night of the list of nominees for the majority of the posts.
After two other candidates failed to form a government since Adel Abdul Mahdi stepped down in December last year, Iraqi President Barham Salih tasked al-Kadhimi, the former head of Iraq's intelligence, with the job on April 9.