Iraq – Islamic State gunmen launched a brazen raid Friday on the northern city of Kirkuk, attacking government buildings, hotels and police positions in what appeared to be an attempt to divert resources and attention from an Iraqi offensive on northern city of Mosul, where the group is losing ground.
Running gun battles continued in Kirkuk for much of the day after the militants attacked in the early morning hours.
The militants attempted to take control of the old police headquarters in Kirkuk using two suicide bombers and attacked a local government building, a political party office and multiple positions of security forces.
Abdullah Majid, a security chief, said militants wearing police uniforms and using stolen police vehicles also set up a checkpoint in a southern neighbor hood of the city, kidnapping at least 10 people who were mostly local security forces.
“The militants attacked the provincial council building but did not manage to control it. They managed to enter the police station but had lost it by mid morning.” Hassan Touran, a lawmaker from Kirkuk, said the attack was launched by Islamic State “Sleeper cells.” Karim said he believed the militants had “Infiltrated” the city.
On Friday, the militants claimed to have repelled multiple attacks by Kurdish forces, including around the town of Bashiqa.
The peshmerga forces opened new fronts Thursday against the militants in Mosul, with Iraq’s elite counter terrorism forces joining the fight for the first time.