Jihadists kill dozens as Iraq fighting rages
ISIS militants killed 16 Kurdish troops in northern Iraq and 30 pro-government forces south of Baghdad
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters killed 16 Kurdish troops in attacks in northern Iraq, while 30 pro-government forces died battling the jihadists on other frontlines, officials said Saturday.
ISIS fighters, who control Iraq’s main northern city of Mosul, attacked a nearby dam and oil facility on Friday but Kurdish peshmerga deployed in the area fought them off.
The jihadist fighters “attacked a peshmerga post in Zumar (Friday) and a fierce battle erupted,” an official in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told AFP.
He said 14 peshmerga fighters were killed there, a toll confirmed by a senior officer in the Kurdish force.
The PUK official said the peshmerga killed “around 100” ISIS fighters and captured 38 in a battle that lasted several hours.
Zumar is a small Kurdish-majority outpost northwest of Mosul, which used to be under federal government control but was taken over by the peshmerga in June.
ISIS fighters, who had already been running large swathes of neighboring Syria, launched a blistering offensive on June 9 that saw them capture Mosul, Iraq’s second city, and move into much of the country’s Sunni heartland.
Many government forces retreated in the face of the onslaught, and peshmerga troops seized the opportunity to fill the vacuum and seize long-coveted areas the Kurds were in dispute with Baghdad over.
Two other peshmerga were killed Saturday in fighting that erupted in the nearby Kasak area close to a border crossing with Syria, a senior peshmerga source told AFP.
The officer said the Kurdish troops temporarily pulled back to allow the Iraqi air force to bomb IS positions both in Zumar and near the border post.
Clashes in south of Baghdad
In equally intense overnight fighting on the main front south of Baghdad, at least 23 pro-government forces were killed by relentless mortar shelling of their positions in Jurf al-Sakhr.
ISIS militants began attacking the town late Friday, killing 11 soldiers and 12 members of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, an officer and army medic said.
Another seven soldiers were wounded during a subsequent government operation against jihadist fighters in Jurf al-Sakhr, Al-Hamya and Latifiya, the sources said, claiming 37 IS fighters were killed.
Using the western city of Fallujah as a rear base, jihadists have repeatedly attacked Jurf al-Sakhr, where pro-government forces are keen to prevent a foray that would expose the nearby holy Shiite city of Karbala and further encircle Baghdad by cutting the main road to the south.
In other attacks on Saturday, five would-be volunteer fighters were killed and 16 wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a Shiite militia recruitment center in the town of Balad, north of Baghdad, police said.
Further north in Samarra, a Sunni-dominated city with a heavy militia presence protecting one of the holiest sites in Shiite Islam, two policemen were killed in a roadside bomb blast, police and medical sources said.
And further up the same main northbound road, in the town of Daquq, an air raid meant to stop an IS attack resulted in the deaths of six civilians, a top health official said.
The United Nations’ envoy in Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, expressed concern on Friday over the high number of civilians killed in the Iraqi conflict.
According to the U.N., 1,186 of the 1,737 people killed in violence in July were civilians.