Two Peshmerga killed in ISIS attack amid uptick in activity, COVID-19
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Amid a general uptick in the so-called Islamic State’s activity in Iraq, members of the terrorist organization on late Tuesday attacked a Peshmerga position on the outskirts of a town in the Kurdistan Region’s southernmost Garmiyan area.
The Garmiyan Administration is an unofficial province in the Kurdistan Region that includes the three districts Kalar, Kifri, and Chamchamal, separating territory disputed between Baghdad and Erbil and the autonomous region. Kurdish security forces (Asayish) protect these areas.
The incident occurred in rural parts of Kulajo, a town part of Garmiyan’s Kifri district. A security source told Kurdistan 24 the militants stormed a position the Peshmerga’s fifth brigade held, adding the Kurdish fighters repelled the attack.
“As per preliminary information, two Peshmerga were martyred and another one was wounded,” the source said. Reinforcements deployed to the area and transported the injured fighter to the Kalar hospital. The number of casualties on the Islamic State side is still unclear.
The source also said that simultaneous with the Islamic State attack, an as yet unclear number of rockets landed inside Kulajo town, causing only material damage, according to early reports.
The attackers are thought to have infiltrated Kulajo from domain next to the town where a security vacuum has cultivated a no man’s land from where remnants of the terrorist organization continue to plan and launch terrorist attacks on nearby areas.
The rural parts of Garmiyan, as well as other areas of contested claim between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), has been the site of repeated terrorist activity, including armed assaults, bombings, and kidnappings.
The terror group has recently intensified its operations in apparent efforts to exploit diverted attention by the security forces due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The disease has infected over 1,100 people across the country despite strict measures instituted by both Erbil and Baghdad to contain it.
Earlier on Tuesday, a roadside bomb – suspected to have been planted by Islamic State insurgents – blew up on an Iraqi federal police convoy in the disputed Kirkuk province’s Daquq district, which is another region where militant activity is rampant. The explosion wounded two officers.
In another attack in the same area the night before, several gunmen directed gunfire on a federal police checkpoint in a village in Daquq. As the exchange went on, additional security forces rode to the area, but three improvised explosives planted on the road blew up, wounding three personnel.
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These are just three incidents among an increasing pattern emerging over the past week, during which local media have reported several bombings and attacks on members of the security forces in volatile areas such as Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salahuddin, and Diyala.
Diyala province’s Khanaqin district has also been hit by multiple attacks. It is close to Kifri – where Kulajo is located – and both neighbor the patch of territory to their southwest that has long been infested by sleeper cells that have been left unaddressed since the terror group lost all its territorial claims in 2017.
Kurdish officials have warned that the lack of effective joint security coordination between Kurdish and federal Iraqi forces offers extremist fighters the opportunity to regroup and stage attacks in nearby populated areas.
This also comes amid ongoing intra-Shia disputes over who would succeed Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, who resigned in late November after members of the security forces, chief among them Iran-aligned militias, upped their crackdown on anti-government protesters, killing dozens in one especially deadly night.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany