The Islamic State has regrouped in Iraq and is conducting increasingly deadly attacks in territories across northern Iraq, taking advantage of the hostility between the central government and the Kurdish people, according to both Iraqi and Kurdish officials.

The Iraqi government declared a final victory over IS last December after Iraqi forces drove its last remnants from the country.

IS militants have since reverted to guerrilla warfare tactics, particularly in Kirkuk, northern Saladin and eastern Diyala, where both the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government claim control.

Ali al-Husaini, the spokesman of the Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in northern Iraq, accused IS of attempting to turn the territories into a hotbed by fueling tensions between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.

Rich with abundant natural resources, the disputed territories have been the core of decades-long conflict between the Iraqi government and the Kurds.

The Kurds say the former Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein changed the demographics of the area by displacing Kurds and Assyrians and settling Arab tribes. Article 140 of the current Iraqi constitution requires that measures have to be taken to reverse the changes before people of the areas hold a referendum to decide their fate.

The referendum was supposed to take place on November 2007 but has been repeatedly delayed, and the area remains contested.

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“IS terrorists want to create chaos by resorting to attacks in the form of gang militancy,” al-Husaini told VOA. “They want to create divisions among the components of this area and prove they still have power in Iraq.”

He said IS fighters have increased their hit-and-run attacks in towns and villages to obstruct the upcoming Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for May.

In recent weeks, Iraqi security forces have blamed suspected IS insurgents for several deadly attacks carried out in the disputed areas.

ISIS has been setting up bogus checkpoints on the thinly held highways in the area, ambushing government troops and killing and kidnapping civilians, holding them for ransom.

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