Peshmerga official warns terrorist activity growing as ISIS claims attack in Kirkuk

"Unfortunately, until now, we have not been able to find...coordination between us and the Iraqi forces, and this has created a golden opportunity for the organization to operate in areas experiencing a security vacuum."

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdistan Region Peshmerga Minister Shorsh Ismael on Sunday said that the so-called Islamic State aims to seize a "golden opportunity" to grow its foothold in parts of Iraq as the central government's focus has shifted towards combatting the spread of the new coronavirus disease.

The minister's comments came during a press conference in the town of Kulajo, which was the site of new attacks by the terrorist organization that led to the deaths of two Peshmerga fighters. He stressed the need for the federal Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to work together to confront an emboldened Islamic State

"Unfortunately, until now, we have not been able to find this coordination between us and the Iraqi forces, and this has created a golden opportunity for the organization to operate in areas experiencing a security vacuum," Ismael said, referring to areas that are disputed between the two governments.

He pointed out that the terror group "has rearranged its ranks in those areas," imposes levies and strict rule on rural populations outside the reach of security forces." Ismael also noted that the Islamic State has the means to pay its militants and is "receiving support" from certain parties, without providing more details.

The minister reiterated the need to form a joint coordination center between the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi armed forces to end the "security vacuum" in those volatile areas.

Speaking to Kurdistan 24, Commander Mardan, the head of the Qara Tapa–Hamrin Peshmerga Front, stated that the pattern and rate of activities of the terrorist organization have similarities with the group's initial growth into prominence in 2014.

He affirmed that the current crises plaguing Iraq—from a power vacuum in the capital, anti-government protests, the coronavirus outbreak, economic outfalls of dropping oil prices—have fostered a situation easily exploited by remnants of the Islamic State.

On Saturday, the terrorist organization claimed responsibility for a bombing in the disputed Kirkuk province that reportedly wounded two people aboard a vehicle to which an explosive device was attached. An official in the border control department of Kirkuk, who was a passenger, later succumbed to his injuries.

This incident came four days after Islamic State gunmen attacked a Peshmerga unit on the outskirts of the town of Kulajo, located in the Kifri district of the Garmiyan Administration, which is an unofficial province in the Kurdistan Region that borders areas disputed between Erbil and Baghdad. Two Kurdish fighters were killed.

Read More: Kurdish leader stresses ISIS still a serious threat after attack kills 2 Peshmerga

These are just a few incidents among many that have taken place over the past two weeks. Local media have reported several bombings and attacks on members of the Iraqi security forces in high-risk provinces such as Kirkuk, Nineveh, Salahuddin, and Diyala.