ISIS attacked the home of a police officer west of Kirkuk, killed seven of his family members and took the officer hostage briefly before he was freed by Peshmerga. Photo: Rudaw TV
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – ISIS militants seized a police officer, killing seven members of his family and briefly taking him hostage before he was freed by Peshmerga west of Kirkuk Thursday night.
Mohammed Azawi, the police officer, told Rudaw on Friday that militants killed three of his sons, three cousins, and another relative of his, all Arabs, who were in his house when ISIS attacked.
The local police department confirmed the deaths, also releasing the names of the deceased.
The incident happened in Mahla village, about 35 kilometres west of Kirkuk.
Azawi said some 20 militants, many of them Arabs and some speaking Kurdish, were carrying American weapons and introduced themselves as Peshmerga when they arrived at his home around midnight.
“When I opened the door, they said they are Peshmerga and were here to inspect the place. But the moment they entered, I realized and said to them, ‘You are not Peshmerga, you are ISIS.’ Then they hit me and handcuffed me,” Azawi recounted.
The ISIS militants beheaded five people in the home and shot dead another two, he said. They took Azawi hostage, but encountered the Peshmerga on their way out of the village.
Kirkuk police reported that the Peshmerga ambushed the militants and the hostage was released during ensuing clashes.
Azawi’s wife was also slightly injured when the militants blew up Azawi’s car after they left the house.
Dibiz borders ISIS-held Hawija, one of the last two strongholds of the extremist group in northern Iraq.
Azawi, who said he is a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), claimed ISIS wanted to exchange him for some of their members being held by the Peshmerga. He said militants told him they had been observing him for two days before the attack.
He said some people in the village are cooperating with ISIS.
ISIS has stepped up its activity south of Kirkuk where the Hamrin mountain range runs along Kurdistan’s southern border.
According to Peshmerga and Kurdish officials, ISIS has adopted a new strategy in the area, regrouping in the Hamrin mountains and around their stronghold of Hawija, establishing relations with local people and moving towards guerrilla-style tactics as they lose territory elsewhere in Iraq and Syria.
Kurdish forces have complained that operations against ISIS in Tel Afar west of Mosul have been prioritized over an offensive in the areas south of Kirkuk and Hawija.