ISIS attacks Iraqi city of Kirkuk as Mosul offensive intensifies

The United Nations said Friday it is “gravely worried” that ISIS has taken 550 families from villages around Mosul and is using them as human shields at the militant group’s “offices and locations” in the city.
Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, told CNN that 200 families from Samalia village and 350 families from Najafia were forced out on Monday and taken to Mosul in what appears to be “an apparent policy by ISIS to prevent civilians escaping.”
[Previous story, posted at 7:40 a.m.]
ISIS militants attacked several security buildings in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, officials said, as Iraqi and Kurdish forces battle the terror group for control of the second-largest city of Mosul.
Dozens of militants targeted four police stations and Kurdish security offices in Kirkuk, spreading themselves out through several residential neighborhoods. The clashes were ongoing in the southern part of the city as of Friday morning, security officials said.

Latest developments

  • Nearly 30 ISIS militants take over a building in southern Kirkuk, fire on security forces
  • Twelve people killed in a separate ISIS attack in Dibis
  • Iraqi-led forces have recaptured at least 100 square kilometers of territory, CNN analysis shows
  • A US service member died of injuries in a blast in northern Iraq, according to the Pentagon.

Security forces surround two Kirkuk locations

Security forces killed at least seven ISIS militants in Kirkuk, security officials there said, but there was no information yet on civilian casualties. Images broadcast on local television showed what appeared to be dead or injured fighters on the street.
Security forces arrive with armoured vehicles after ISIS attacks in Kirkuk, Iraq, October 21, 2016.
Nearly 30 ISIS militants took over an unoccupied building in Domiz district in southern Kirkuk and started firing on security forces there, according to security officials. Iraqi security forces are surrounding the building now and sporadic clashes continue.
The situation is still tense in the city, with at least two ISIS suicide bombers hiding inside two buildings in two separate locations in southern Kirkuk, security officials said. Security forces are surrounding both locations.
Local authorities imposed a curfew in Kirkuk amid the attacks.
Kirkuk is 175 kilometers (109 miles) southeast of Mosul, where a major military offensive started earlier this week.
Previous attacks by ISIS militants on Kirkuk have been seen as attempts to either capture the city or divert Kurdish troops from the fight in Mosul.
In a separate incident, ISIS militants also attacked a government building in Dibis town, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Kirkuk on Friday.
Twelve people were killed, including nine Iraqi employees and three Iranian contractors, two security officials told CNN.
How the ‘Kurdish question’ complicates fight against ISIS

Kirkuk assault ‘a disruption’

The most likely reason for Friday’s assault is disruption, with ISIS demonstrating it can deploy its resources far behind the front lines, CNN’s Michael Holmes said near Mosul.
“It’s long been thought that there would be something like this going on in more than one place around Iraq as the Mosul offensive got under way,” he said. “There’s been speculation that there are ISIS sleeper cells, or ISIS fighters, within reach of places like that for some time, from Baghdad to places like Kirkuk.”
The city’s significance stems from the fact its oil reserves are almost as much as those in southern Iraq.
What’s happening in Mosul?

Intense battle around Mosul

Fighting outside of Mosul as part of the offensive to retake what’s seen as the cultural capital of ISIS’s envisaged caliphate was the fiercest yet on Thursday, with Iraqi-led forces meeting strong resistance from militants.
Iraqi Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi said 200 ISIS fighters were killed as Iraqi forces took the Christian town of Bartella from their control, the latest territorial win for a coalition of around 100,000 people quickly closing in on Mosul.
Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters prepare to fire a rocket launcher near the town of Bashiqa, about 15 miles northeast of Mosul, on October 20, 2016.
The coalition has now recaptured at least 100 square kilometers of territory, a CNN analysis of the battlefield shows.
Peshmerga forces’ command said they advanced “significantly” to the north and northeast of Mosul on Thursday, and liberated a number of villages.
However, it criticized the air support provided by the international coalition, saying it was “not as decisive as in the past.”
“Regrettably a number of Peshmerga have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to deliver today’s gains against ISIL,” it said, using another acronym for ISIS. Up to 10,000 Peshmerga are involved in the operation on three fronts, it said.
The US envoy for the anti-ISIS coalition, Brett McGurk, said via Twitter that he was heading to Irbil on Friday to meet with US, Iraqi, and Kurdish officials taking part in the Mosul campaign. The Pentagon announced Thursday that a US service member died of injuries suffered in a blast in northern Iraq.

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