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Iraq outraged by deal to evacuate Islamic State fighters

IS fighters and their families evacuated toward militant-held Deir az-Zour. [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 August, 2017

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Iraq has strongly denounced a deal allowing fighters from the Islamic State group to evacuate from a Syria-Lebanese frontier region to near the Iraqi border.

Iraq has strongly denounced a deal allowing fighters from the Islamic State group to evacuate from a Syria-Lebanese frontier region to near the Iraqi border.

Recent negotiations between Bashar al-Assad's regime and the Islamic State group resulted in an agreement that will see IS fighters transferred from the Lebanon-Syria border to Deir az-Zour, which borders Iraq.

Hundreds of IS militants began leaving the area on Monday, heading by bus to the eastern Syrian province, which is still under IS control.

Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Tuesday that the deal was "unacceptable" and an "insult to the Iraqi people". 

He said Iraq was fighting the militants, not sending them to Syria.

Iraqi social media users also expressed outrage at the evacuation deal, which came a week into a Lebanese army offensive against IS and a joint Syrian regime and Hizballah 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 militants to deploy along an "insecure" border, close to three Iraqi desert towns still under IS control.

"These are not normal people, and we know what a single car (bomb) or one suicide bomber can do in Baghdad," he wrote.

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 neighbours would not be harmed," he wrote in a Facebook post.

Journalist Salma al-Khafaji said the evacuation could allow a "restructuring and reorganisation of Daesh, throwing them into a new battle against Iraq".

Syria's main opposition coalition has also slammed the international community's "silence" on the evacuation deal.

"The negotiations have laid bare the close links between [IS], the Iranian-backed Hizballah and the Assad regime as well as the complicity of the three parties in the spread of terrorism in Syria and Lebanon," the Syrian Coalition said in a statement. 

Iraqi forces recaptured second city Mosul from IS in July after a nine-month battle, and are fighting the last pocket of fighters in the northern province of Nineveh.

Iraqi forces are expected to announce victory in the city of Tal Afar within days, dislodging IS from all but a few scattered Iraqi towns close to the border with Syria’s Deir az-Zour.

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