ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Members of the Islamic State (IS) stormed into several villages on the outskirts of Iraq’s disputed province of Kirkuk, kidnapping at least 19 people, a local security source said on Tuesday.
This is the latest move by the jihadist group in southern and southwestern villages of the oil-rich province, areas where officials and residents have been warning that the group’s activities are on the rise.
On Monday evening, IS militants broke into the villages of al-Mubadad and Zuba’ Jadida on the outskirts of the town of Rashad and kidnapped about 16 people, the security source told Kurdistan 24 on condition of anonymity.
Among the abductees is the new head of the Zuba’ Jadida village, he said. IS often targets local leaders known as mukhtars, accusing them of collaborating with security forces and other Iraqi authorities.
Following the abduction, the jihadist group in an online statement claimed responsibility for the attacks in the area, part of the Sunni-majority city of Hawija.
A local resident stated that similar abductions took place in the area last week, but local police stations said that they had not been notified. Another source said that most of those kidnapped were taken to “Zaghitun Valley,” a vast area that Iraqi forces announced had been cleared from IS sleeper cells earlier in the year.
According to witnesses, IS fighters also attacked the village of Jinklau in the vicinity of Daquq district, kidnapping three ethnically Kurdish residents.
The kidnappings coincided with Christmas night “to draw attention”, security said, stating the group's militants “want to prove its existence by any means.”
Such attacks are reminiscent of tactics used by the jihadist group in the years before they declared their self-proclaimed caliphate in northern Iraq in 2014.
Last year, Iraq declared victory against IS, but it continues to carry out an insurgency with explosions, kidnappings, and ambushes across different provinces in the north, namely the disputed territories.
Editing by John J. Catherine