ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Eight members of Iraq's federal police or Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF) militias were killed or wounded fighting Islamic State (IS) militants in a rural area south of Kirkuk, local sources told Kurdistan 24.
“IS gunmen launched an attack on Iraqi security forces stationed near the village of Saadouniyah in the town of Rashad, 35 km southwest of Kirkuk, killing six,” said a security source.
There are also unconfirmed reports of two additional PMF members wounded after being sent as reinforcements following the initial attack.
The incident occurred as Iraqis went to the polls to elect members of the next national parliament. It is not known whether the attack was in any way targeting those involved or guarding the election process.
IS extremists issued a warning in April that “all those who support or participate in the elections” would be a target of their attacks and told Sunni Iraqis specifically to stay clear of the polls or risk being killed.
Though previously under the protection of Kurdish Peshmerga forces since 2014, checkpoints in Kirkuk have been run by Iraqi security forces or PMF fighters since they forcibly took control of the province in October in response to the Kurdistan Region's September independence referendum.
Iraq announced on Wednesday that a 24-hour curfew would go into effect from midnight on Friday and last the entire day on Saturday. Airports and border crossings were also ordered closed for 24 hours as a security precaution, but Iraqi president Haidar al-Abadi announced early Saturday afternoon that airports were being reopened.
Editing by John J. Catherine