Iraq's disputed Kirkuk province begins 2021 with deadly explosion

The aftermath of a previous Islamic State bombing in Iraq. (Photo: AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)
The aftermath of a previous Islamic State bombing in Iraq. (Photo: AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Three Iraqi soldiers perished in an explosion that appeared to target their vehicle in a southern suburb of the disputed province of Kirkuk, local security sources said on Friday evening.

The bombing was carried out with an improvised explosive device (IED) within an area separating the villages of al-Khasha and al-Qahhara, south of the city of Daquq, some 50 kilometers south of Kirkuk.

A security source confirmed to Kurdistan 24 that the explosion targeted a patrol of the federal military's second regiment, now deployed in southern Daquq, and that a fourth soldier was wounded in the blast.

The accident comes just hours after 30 people were injured when a fire broke out at a mall in the city of Kirkuk during New Year's celebrations.

Although no party has claimed responsibility for the attack, the Islamic State has launched similar, and often bloodier, attacks in and around Kirkuk since Kurdish Peshmerga forces were pushed from the province in Baghdad's harsh response to the Kurdistan Region's 2017 independence referendum.

Iraq declared a “final victory” over the Islamic State in late 2017 as well, but the group has shown it can still launch deadly attacks using guerrilla tactics. The extremist group, now led by Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi, has escalated its recent activity in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin.

Senior officials in the Kurdistan Region have repeatedly warned that Islamic State fighters have already begun to regroup and urged Baghdad to increase coordination with Peshmerga forces to track down the group's remnants.

Editing by John J. Catherine