Gunmen target Iraqi security patrol, Shia militias in Kirkuk
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A group of unknown gunmen on Thursday night launched a rocket attack on an Iraqi military convoy, and five members of the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia were wounded in two roadside bomb explosions in the latest string of incidents to rock Kirkuk.
Due to the deteriorating security situation in the province of Kirkuk since the Oct. 16 attack and takeover by Iraqi forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), such incidents are becoming a daily occurrence. The disputed city of Kirkuk was under the protection of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces since 2014, after the emergence of the Islamic State (IS) and the collapse of the Iraqi army.
A security source told Kurdistan 24 that unidentified gunmen fired two RPG-7 missiles at an Iraqi counter-terrorism unit patrolling Iskan district, northeast of Kirkuk. No casualties were reported.
The source, who asked to remain anonymous, said the Iraqi security forces fired back but did not make any arrests. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Iraq’s anti-terrorism forces are currently in charge of security in Kirkuk, one of the disputed territories between the Kurdistan Region and the Iraqi federal government.
The head of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, Rebwar Talabani, has called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to hand over control of the security apparatus to the local police in a bid to stabilize the situation.
Southwest of Kirkuk, five Hashd al-Shaabi fighters were injured after two roadside bombs detonated during their patrol. Local sources claim the twin bombing happened overnight in the town of Hawija.
Over the past few days, Hawija has witnessed several assassinations of Hashd al-Shaabi officers and Iraqi officials according to security sources.
The presence of IS sleeper cells are one of the toughest security challenges facing newly-liberated areas and hinder the return of displaced people who fled to the Kurdistan Region and other parts of Iraq following the emergence of the extremist group in 2014.
Overnight attacks by unknown armed groups, reminiscent of IS and Al-Qaeda, have been commonplace incidents over the past three months, notably since the Oct. 16 attack.