As Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushed toward the ISIS stronghold of Mosul, Iraq, on Friday, fighters from the so-called Islamic State launched a surprise attack on Kirkuk, an ethnically diverse city of more than 800,000 about 100 miles southeast of Mosul in northern Iraq that both the Iraqi government and the Kurds claim as their own.
Scattered fighting continued into Friday night and early Saturday morning in Kirkuk, amid conflicting claims by ISIS — who claimed that their fighters controlled about half of the city — and local forces who said that all of the ISIS terrorists had been killed.
Watch a live stream direct from Kirkuk, courtesy of the Erbil, Kurdistan, news network Kurdistan 24. The live stream can be seen in the video below. If the video is not live, it will be replaced with a new stream as soon as one becomes available.
About 30 ISIS fighters remained holed up in buildings inside Kirkuk by the end of Friday, according to a report in The Guardian, which also reported that the purpose of the attack was to divert Kurdish resources from the assault on Mosul.
In that respect, the attack on Kirkuk was a success, as dozens of Kurdish soldiers from the Peshmerga army and the PKK (Kurdisj Worker’s Party) guerrilla force swarmed into the city to drive out the ISIS militants, as seen in the videos below on this page.
— Civil Defence Units (@DefenceUnits) October 21, 2016
By shortly before midnight, local time, which is seven hours ahead of United States Eastern Daylight Time, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that he was ordering more Iraqi troops to Kirkuk to assist in uprooting the remaining ISIS militants in the city.
Kurdish officials declared the ISIS operation a failure, saying that the entire attack consisted of about 100 fighters from the terror group that swept through Iraq in the summer of 2014, in lightning raids that captured large swaths of the country, including the entire city of Mosul, which then became a makeshift “capital” for the group’s so-called Islamic State in Iraq.
Peshmerga volunteers and Kirkuk locals engage with ISIS terrorists hiding in a unfinished building until counter terrorism forces arrive. pic.twitter.com/B8nT0EPzpc
— Peshmerga News (@PeshmergaNews) October 21, 2016
At least some of the ISIS militants who attacked strategic points in Kirkuk, including an electric power station, were reported to have been “sleeper cells,” that is, ISIS terrorists living undercover in the city, posing as ordinary residents — until receiving orders to carry out their deadly mission.
Kurdish police claimed to have killed six such “sleeper cell” member militants — but ISIS, through its affiliated Amaq News Agency, said that its fighters killed 16 people, including four electrical technicians, as the terrorists stormed a power station in the city, shutting down power there.
“They are trying to cause confusion and chaos,” Najmiddin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk province said, in a Washington Post report. “They know they’d never be able to control anything here, and they came ready to die. Once in awhile when they get defeated, they try to show some strength somewhere. Every Iraqi city is vulnerable.”
Karim and other officials said that as ISIS finds itself desperate as a result of the Iraqi-Kurdish assault on Mosul — an assault supported from the air by United States fighter planes, as well as about 100 American soldiers, called “advisors” on the ground — the terror group will likely launch further surprise attacks on Iraqi cities and towns.
The situation at nightfall remained murky, though calm appeared to have been restored in the city. But reports that ISIS militants still controlled at least one hotel where they held hostages continued.
Officials in Iran said that five Iranians working as contractors in the power plant that came under ISIS assault were killed.
A television news reporter was killed by ISIS sniper fire as well, as the Kirkuk attack continued on Friday.
[Featured Image by Rudaw TV/Associated Press]