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Iraq PM says IS militants seeking to cross to Iraq from Syria

Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi attends the opening of Baghdad International Fair in Baghdad, Iraq, November 10, 2018. REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday that hundreds of Iraqi Islamic State militants at Deir al-Zor in eastern Syria were trying to cross into Iraq.

The militants have launched attacks in recent weeks against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces on the Syrian side of the border, prompting Iraqi militias that operate alongside the army to reinforce in the area.

Abdul Mahdi said the militants were seeking to recapture territory they had once controlled on the Iraqi side, during Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate that extended from eastern Syria to northern Iraq from 2014 to 2017.

“But Iraqi forces are carrying out their duties to pre-empt any attempts by Daesh (Islamic State) to infiltrate the border and cross into Iraq,” he told reporters at a news conference.

Islamic State militants have since their military defeat in Iraq in 2017 reverted to insurgency tactics such as bombings and attacks on security forces, especially in northern Nineveh and northeastern Diyala provinces.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed, Writing by John Davison, Editing by William Maclean