ISIS threatens Iraq elections, releases video showing execution of 'election advocators'

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 28, 2018, 04.01 PM(IST)

File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Islamic State's Amaq News Agency released a video on Friday showing what they said was Islamic State militants shooting "two advocators" for next month's Iraqi parliamentary elections in the town of al-Tarmiyah, in the Salah al-Din governorate north of Baghdad.

Islamic State said earlier this week that it would attack polling stations in Iraq during parliamentary elections next month and that anyone who participated in the vote would be considered an infidel.

In an audio message released on April 22, the militant group's spokesman accused Iraq's Shi'ite-led government of being a proxy of Iran and warned that anyone who runs or votes in the May 12 election would be targeted.

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.

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.

Iraqi officials have said polling stations will be well protected.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in December over Islamic State, which seized a third of Iraq in 2014, but the hardline Sunni militants have reverted to insurgency tactics following the crumbling of their self-declared caliphate.

Voting in Iraq’s parliamentary elections is scheduled for May 12, in which 6,904 candidates have registered to run for 329 seats. That’s less than in 2014, when 9,000 candidates put their names in the ring.

This time, eyes will be on what happens in mostly Sunni Arab districts that were liberated from ISIS over the last several years. Abadi visited Fallujah, a Sunni city devastated by the conflict, on April 22. There are almost 100 seats up for grabs in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Diyala, Salah a-Din and Anbar governorates, where most of Iraq’s Arab Sunnis live. Turnout will also be watched closely in Kurdish regions.

Some Kurds have been calling to boycott the elections since Baghdad sent its army into Kirkuk, a largely Kurdish city in northern Iraq. Baghdad sought to reassert Federal control after the September 2017 Kurdistan independence referendum.