ISIL launches major offensive on oil town of Kirkuk in Iraq

Wall Street Journal:
Islamic State militants launched their biggest offensive yet outside Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk and tried to penetrate the city itself, part of a spate of brazen attacks by the extremist group against Kurdish forces across Iraq on Friday.

A senior Kurdish commander, Brig. Gen. Sherko Fatih, was among at least six Kurdish forces killed in the surprise attack just after midnight outside the northern Iraqi city, officials said.

As fighting raged outside the city, fighters from Islamic State, also known as ISIS, tried to break into the Kirkuk Palace Hotel after detonating a car bomb in front of the hotel, a rare incursion into the city center, officials said.

Kirkuk Gov. Najmaldin Karim said Kurdish forces and local police halted the hotel break-in, killing three militants. The Kurdish forces, known as Peshmerga, “foiled today a break-in operation by ISIS toward oil and gas installations from three directions that aimed at reaching the center of Kirkuk,” Mr. Karim said.

After hours of fighting, Peshmerga officials also said they pushed the militants back from the areas where they had advanced southwest of Kirkuk, focusing particularly on cutting their access to roads leading to oil infrastructure.

Still, the strings of attacks on Friday are a fresh setback for Kurdish forces’ front against Islamic State in Iraq. The militants have engaged the Peshmerga and other Kurdish forces around Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region, and areas farther south nearer to Baghdad. But attacks around Kirkuk, the oil-rich city under Kurdish control, are rare.

Also Friday, Islamic State suicide bombers targeted Peshmerga forces in Jalawla, a Kurdish-controlled town in Diyala province, killing seven Peshmerga fighters. Bomb attacks struck Baghdad and, north of it, the city of Samarra. In western Anbar province, an Islamic State stronghold, militants launched fresh attacks on security forces holed out in Fallujah, security officials said.

Officials in Baghdad and Erbil characterized the attacks across the country as signs Islamic State was lashing out, after losing some momentum and ground in Iraq in recent weeks.
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I think their strategic objective maybe to stop the Kurdish army and put them on the defensive because they have recently been retaking territory ISIL had previous taken.   This could be their battle of the bulge.  The kurds remain teh most effective force fighting ISIL in both Iraq and Syria.

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