Daesh assault on Kirkuk ends with 96 dead, half of them attackers

Daesh assault on Kirkuk ends with 96 dead, half of them attackers
Iraqis return to their village after it was liberated from Daesh, south of Mosul. The smoke in the background is from oil wells that were set ablaze by terrorists. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2016

Daesh assault on Kirkuk ends with 96 dead, half of them attackers

Daesh assault on Kirkuk ends with 96 dead, half of them attackers

KIRKUK, Iraq: A massive Daesh assault on targets in and around the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk came to an end Saturday after a day and night of heavy clashes, as Iraqi forces launched a new advance southeast of the Daesh-held city of Mosul.
Brig. Gen. Khattab Omer of the Kirkuk police said 48 of the attackers were killed or blew themselves up. Special counter-terrorism and intelligence units were hunting down some of the dozens of Daesh fighters who stormed public buildings in the early hours of Friday.
The area around the provincial headquarters, where the fighting was heaviest, was quiet Saturday morning.
Clashes have been taking place almost uninterrupted since and the city, which lies some 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad, remains under curfew.
A senior interior ministry official said that at least 46 other people had been killed in the Daesh raid and ensuing clashes, among them 13 workers, including four Iranians, who were killed by the militants at a power plant north of Kirkuk. A local TV reporter was killed by a sniper in the city. The rest of the casualties were members of the security forces.
“The security forces control the situation now but there are still pockets of jihadists in some southern and eastern neighborhoods,” Omer said.
“We have foiled this large Daesh plot, which was to take control of government buildings, including security headquarters,” he said.
“They were denied just like they are being defeated on the outskirts of Mosul,” the police chief said, in reference to the ongoing offensive by tens of thousands of Iraqi forces to wrest back the city of Mosul, Daesh’s last major stronghold in Iraq.
It was not clear how many militants took part in the assault, which appeared to be aimed at diverting attention from Mosul, around 170 kilometers (100 miles) away, where Iraqi forces are waging a major offensive.
The Iraqi army’s 9th Division meanwhile launched a new push to retake the town of Hamdaniyah, around 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the southeast of Mosul.
The Joint Military Operation Command said troops were advancing on the town, also known as Bakhdida and Qaraqosh.
Two army officers told The Associated Press that forces were advancing on the town from the north and south, with the support of US-led coalition airstrikes. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
The operation is part of an offensive launched Monday aimed at liberating Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which fell to IS in 2014. It is the largest operation undertaken by Iraqi forces since the 2003 US-led invasion and is expected to take weeks, if not months.
Hamdaniyah is believed to be largely uninhabited. Daesh has heavily mined the approaches to Mosul, and Iraqi forces have had to contend with roadside bombs, snipers and suicide truck bombs as they have moved closer to the city.
Iraqi forces retook the town of Bartella, around 15 kilometers (nine miles) east of Mosul, earlier this week, but are still facing pockets of resistance in the area.