Pesh­merga re­pelled at­tacks of Is­lamic State in Kirkuk

More than 200 ter­ror­ists were killed and 300 oth­ers were in­jured in clashes with Pesh­merga. Around 600 ter­ror­ists took part in the at­tacks, se­cu­rity sources say.

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

Ex­ploit­ing a foggy night as cover, Is­lamic State mil­i­tants launched a sur­prise attack on Kur­dish po­si­tions on the out­skirts of Kirkuk early Fri­day, killing a se­nior Kur­dish com­man­der and at least five of his men, se­cu­rity of­fi­cials in the city said.

Ex­ploit­ing a foggy night as cover, Is­lamic State mil­i­tants launched a sur­prise attack on Kur­dish po­si­tions on the out­skirts of Kirkuk early Fri­day, killing a se­nior Kur­dish com­man­der and at least five of his men, se­cu­rity of­fi­cials in the city said.

The as­sault was one of the most ag­gres­sive un­der­taken against Kirkuk in months by the Is­lamic State, the ji­hadist group that strad­dles a large stretch of Iraq and Syria ter­ri­to­ries. The city, in north­ern Iraq, is an oil hub that is seen as cen­tral to the as­pi­ra­tion of Iraqi Kur­dish lead­ers to gain in­de­pen­dence and con­sid­ered as an at­trac­tive strate­gic tar­get for the Is­lamic State.

Fam­i­lies fled their homes as the fight­ing in­ten­si­fied, and at one point, the mil­i­tants stormed an aban­doned ho­tel in the Kirkuk city cen­tre.

The deadly foray on Fri­day demon­strated the con­tin­ued abil­ity of Is­lamic State fighters to ha­rass Iraq’s cities, de­spite a pun­ish­ing month's long cam­paign by Iraqi forces backed by United States airstrikes to dis­lodge the ex­trem­ists.

Iraqi and Amer­i­can mil­i­tary of­fi­cials have claimed re­cent suc­cesses, in­clud­ing killing top lead­ers and re­cap­tur­ing some ter­ri­tory held by the ex­trem­ists. But they have also sug­gested that a victory against the Is­lamic State could take years, given the ob­sta­cles, in­clud­ing a lack of readi­ness on the part of Iraq’s se­cu­rity forces.

A spate of deadly at­tacks by Is­lamic State fighters across the coun­try on Fri­day am­pli­fied con­cerns about the dif­fi­cul­ties of the mil­i­tary cam­paign.

An ex­plo­sive de­vice and a car bomb were det­o­nated in a busy mar­ket area in Bagh­dad on Fri­day morn­ing, killing at least 20 peo­ple. Mor­tar shells fell on two other neigh­bour­hoods in the cap­i­tal, killing five peo­ple and wound­ing at least eight, ac­cord­ing to in­te­rior min­istry of­fi­cials.

North of Bagh­dad, in the city of Sa­marra, Is­lamic State fighters at­tacked po­si­tions held by the Iraqi Army and al­lied mili­tias, leav­ing six peo­ple dead. And in Jalawla, in eastern Iraq, a sui­cide bomber killed seven Kur­dish fighters, in­clud­ing a lieu­tenant colonel.

Hun­dreds of Is­lamic State fighters took part in the attack on Kirkuk early Fri­day, said Col. Hiwa Ahmed, a Pesh­merga com­man­der who said that his forces had seen signs that the ex­trem­ists were pre­par­ing for the battle for at least a week.

Us­ing ar­moured ve­hi­cles and sui­cide bombers, the mil­i­tants at­tacked sev­eral Pesh­merga po­si­tions on the out­skirts of the city. One se­nior Pesh­merga com­man­der, Brig. Gen. Shirko Fatih, who led the First Brigade, was trapped by Is­lamic State fighters and was shot and mar­tyred, ac­cord­ing to Colonel Ahmed. Five fighters who served with Gen­eral Fatih were also mar­tyred, of­fi­cials said.

Res­i­dents caught in the fight­ing fled their homes, head­ing north to Kur­dis­tan, as city of­fi­cials de­clared a cur­few in the city and the sur­round­ing ar­eas.

The United Na­tions de­cided to with­draw its for­eign staff from the city, re­lo­cat­ing them to Er­bil, in Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, be­cause of se­cu­rity con­cerns, ac­cord­ing to an Eliana Nabaa, a spokes­woman for the United Na­tions mission in Iraq. Iraqi staff mem­bers were also given the choice to re­lo­cate, she said.

Later in the day, the mili- tants at­tacked an aban­doned ho­tel in the cen­tre of Kirkuk with a car bomb. A se­cu­rity of­fi­cial in the city said three Is­lamic State fighters had in­fil­trated the ho­tel, reach­ing its roof, but were later killed by Pesh­merga.

The Pesh­merga called in re­in­force­ments from Su­laimaniya and Do­huk to help se­cure the city. Air strikes even­tu­ally helped beat back the mil­i­tants’ ad­vance.

Pesh­merga com­man­ders said they had re­cov­ered the bod­ies of at least 107 Is­lamic State fighters: Some were tied to the back of ve­hi­cles by res­i­dents and pa­raded through Kirkuk’s streets, ac­cord­ing to wit­nesses.

As the battle sub­sided, Is­lamic State fighters were again seen re­group­ing on the out­skirts of Kirkuk, pre­par­ing for what se­cu­rity of­fi­cials ex­pected would be yet an­other sui­ci­dal attack.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Iraq

© PressReader. All rights reserved.