ISIS targets Kakai minority, police in Iraq's disputed Kirkuk

Islamic State fighters injured three members of Iraq's federal police in an attack late Monday night on a village outside the disputed city of Kirkuk inhabited by the Kakai religious minority.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Islamic State fighters injured three Iraqi policemen in an attack late Monday night on a village inhabited by members of the Kakai religious minority outside the disputed city of Kirkuk.

A security source confirmed to local media outlets that the incident began when the village of Ali Saray, located in Daquq district, was first hit by mortars. Soon after, multiple Islamic State gunmen arrived and opened fire. For more than 30 minutes, they clashed with Iraqi federal police for more than a half hour. 

The source added that, after the assault was over and the militant fighters had withdrawn, police conducted a search of the surrounding area. As they did so, an improvised explosive device (IED) that had presumably been hidden during the gunfire detonated, seriously wounding three of the policemen.

According to the source, three separate Islamic State attacks in the vicinity of Daquq during the previous 24 hours resulted in five additional casualties and three kidnappings of federal police officers.

In mid-February, a father and son were killed and ten more injured in another such attack in the town of Khanaqin, in Diyala province. All victims were from the Kakai minority which the Islamic State sees as heretics.

Read More: ISIS attack on religious minority in disputed Khanaqin leaves 2 dead, 10 injured 

As in Monday's attack, a source told Kurdistan 24, “The terrorist group also detonated an IED while the security forces were attempting to evacuate the injured individuals.” 

Having suffered religious persecution from multiple directions, both historically and in recent decades, members of the community have often sought to avoid attention by keeping their practices relatively secret. Though exact statistics on them are scant, it is believed that at least 100,000 Kakais live in various parts of the country, mostly in the disputed territories.

They are among the many minorities in Iraq that have been systematically targeted by the Islamic State but without garnering the same level of news coverage and general awareness as with other more well-known groups. A significant number of Kakai families evacuated their villages in Kirkuk's Daquq district following the militant group's rise to prominence in 2014.

Read More: Specter of ISIS in Iraq lingers for Kirkuk's Kakai minority 

In the summer of 2018, Kakais in Kirkuk called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the federal government of Iraq, the United Nations (UN), and civil society organizations to protect them from being targeted again by the Islamic State. 

Read More: Kakai minority in Kirkuk call on KRG, Baghdad, UN to protect them from IS 

In a statement received by Kurdistan 24, they said that their lives were in danger as the jihadist group was continuously targeting them in areas like Daquq.

Since the Islamic State's late 2017 military defeat in Iraq, its fighters have continued to stage guerilla-style attacks, often in or around rugged terrain in territories disputed between Iraq's federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), primarily in the provinces of Kirkuk, Salahuddin, and Diyala.

The security void in disputed territories between areas protected by Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces sometimes reaches up to 20 kilometers deep. The rugged, barren terrain that is often seen in such areas has been a haven for Islamic State fighters who use it as a base from which to plan and launch attacks in surrounding settlements and towns.

Editing by John J. Catherine