The Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces backed by the coalition air force on Wednesday repelled a major attack by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, according to sources from the city.
“They are targeting Kirkuk and they want to control the oil sites,” said peshmerga Major General Westa Rasul, according to AFP.
The attack began early on Wednesday morning against three villages west of the city of Kirkuk, sparking fighting that lasted for hours, Rasul and two other officers said.
ISIS managed to seize one village, but Kurdish forces backed by air strikes later succeeded in retaking it.
One policeman and five peshmerga, including a colonel and the son of a Kurdish politician, were killed and 28 wounded in the fighting, officers and a doctor said.
When federal security forces crumbled under the weight of the June offensive, Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region took control of a swathe of disputed northern territory it wants to incorporate against Baghdad's wishes.
But ISIS turned its attention north in August, driving Kurdish troops back toward their regional capital Arbil and helping spark the U.S.-led air campaign.
Backed by the strikes, Kurdish troops have regained territory from IS, but the group still holds parts of Kirkuk province and other northern areas.
Iraqi security forces and allied tribesmen also battled to defend the governor's office in Anbar province capital Ramadi from an attack by ISIS, officers said.
“We are defending and protecting the governmental complex” in Ramadi, said police Colonel Hamid Shandukh, adding militants were within a few hundred meters (yards) of the governor's office, according to AFP.
The fighting began when soldiers and police pulled back from Al-Hoz, an area that stretches from Ramadi's south to its center, Shandukh said, adding the government complex area was now being defended by security forces and hundreds of tribesmen.
Another officer, Colonel Salah Arrak al-Alwani, also confirmed fighting in central Ramadi, and said it had been going on for nine hours, AFP reported.
“If we lose Anbar, that means we will lose Iraq,” the province's governor, Ahmed al-Dulaimi, told al-Anbar television from Germany, where he is recovering after being wounded by a mortar round in September.
“I will very soon be with the tribes and the security forces in Anbar to fight” ISIS, Dulaimi said.
Parts of Ramadi and all of Fallujah, to its east, have been outside government control since the beginning of the year, but much more of the province has since been overrun by ISIS, prompting warnings it could fall completely.
Iraqi security forces wilted under the initial June ISIS onslaught, but are now backed by U.S.-led air strikes, international advisers, Shiite militiamen and Sunni tribes, and have begun to claw back some areas.
Kurdish peshmerga forces have also battled ISIS across a front stretching from the border with Syria to Iran, sometimes in concert with federal forces and other times alone.