Iraqi troops, including Hashd al-Sha’abi paramilitary forces, had been dispatched to the Syrian frontier as fears grow that Daesh terrorists could repeat the 2014 offensive.
The border build-up came as Daesh elements recently captured some territory from the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed coalition of mainly Kurdish militants, around the city of Hajin in Syria's eastern Dayr al-Zawr Province.
The Iraqi military said that two Iraqi army brigades, each with 3,000 to 5,000 troops, had been dispatched to border areas in a bid to prevent terrorists crossing over.
Hashd al-Sha’abi also announced the deployment of 20,000 fighters “to provide border security after some Syrian villages fell under the control of ISIS (Daesh).”
Additionally, Lieutenant Colonel Abbas Mohammad, the head of an Iraqi border unit, confirmed beefed-up presence along the Syrian frontier.
"All measures have been taken: we have control towers, observation posts, dirt berms and trenches," he said. "The SDF's retreat will not be a threat to Iraq."
Meanwhile, an AFP video journalist reported that in addition to soldiers, Iraq had sent military vehicles, helicopters and armored cars to the border region.
Iraqi General Qassem al-Mohammadi, who heads counter-terrorism operations in Iraq's western Anbar Province, warned that Daesh militants were just "five or six kilometers away, inside Syria."
Daesh unleashed a campaign of death and destruction in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks. Iraqi army soldiers and allied fighters then launched operations to eliminate the terror outfit and retake lost territory.
Iraq declared the end of the anti-Daesh campaign last December, but the group’s remnants still keep staging sporadic attacks.
In a separate development on Friday, thousands of carp died in mysterious circumstances in fish farmers south of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Farmer Hussein Faraj raised concerns about water poisoning.
“Some are saying it’s because of a sickness, others say it’s because of chemicals,” he said. “We’re waiting for a solution from the government or a test of the water — we’re scared the water will poison us in the coming days, too.”
Ja'afar Yassin, the head of Saddat al-Hindiyah's agricultural unit, said around 90 percent of fish in the city's farms had died.
“This sickness is a mystery. It’s uncontrollable,” he said.
Iraq’s Health Ministry announced that it had taken samples from the water and dead fish in central Babil Province, but tests had yet to be completed.