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ICC Note: A recent series of kidnappings and killings have been claimed by ISIS in Salahuddin, a province which borders the traditional Christian Nineveh Plains. It is estimated that at least 30 have been taken hostage and six killed there within the last month. Many of the ISIS fighters in Salahuddin are locals, creating a potential hotspot for resurgence and recruitment. With these kinds of incidents at their doorstep, Christians continue to point to security concerns as one of the main reasons why they are reluctant to return home.

07/02/2018 Iraq (al-Monitor) – A rash of kidnappings and killings in rural and depopulated areas in Iraq claimed by the Islamic State (IS) have led to debate over whether and where the international terrorist group may attempt resurgence in the country and how best to prevent it.

The finding of six more corpses of kidnapped individuals on June 27 in the Salahuddin province after several similar incidents has meanwhile reinforced speculation that the province may be prone to a budding insurgency for historical, geographical and political reasons.

At least 30 people had reportedly been taken hostage, and seven bodies were found in the northwestern part of the province earlier in the month.

Power lines in Dour and al-Alam were sabotaged by IS on June 26, Al-Monitor was told by a source from the area, and on June 28, the two towns in the province were still without electricity.

Salahuddin, the birthplace of former Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein, is largely Sunni but was assisted greatly by Iran-backed, Shiite-led Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in taking back their areas from IS. Some of these areas, however, remain under the control of nonlocal PMUs that locals claim are more beholden to Iran than the Iraqi government.

The province flanks the vast desert stretching to the Syrian border to the west — bordering on both the Ninevah province to the north and Anbar below that — the restive, notorious Hamreen Mountains, Kirkuk and Diyala to the east, and Baghdad to the south.

The eastern bank of the province’s town of Shirqat continued to be held by IS for months after Mosul was retaken by the Iraqi security forces, enabling the terrorist group to take back part of Imam Gharbi and other nearby villages in southern Ninevah province in the final throes of Mosul in July 2017.

Weeks were needed for the Iraqi security forces to regain the villages, even with the Salahuddin US-trained SWAT team taking part in the operation, which Al-Monitor reported on from the front.

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