ISIS, a relatively new name in the list of extremist groups, shares the same ideology and objectives as al-Qaeda. Photo: AFP
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – The militant and extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has been battling Iraqi military forces in Anbar province for several weeks, is now trying to move the conflict into Kirkuk, local security officials say.
From the Hamrin mountain ridge, ISIS militia forces have been planting bombs along major roads as part of a strategy to destabilize Kirkuk, the officials say, adding that authorities in charge of security in Kirkuk have imposed a comprehensive plan to confront the militants.
Sarhad Qadir, the chief of Kirkuk police, said that his men continue to gather information on ISIS activities in order to foil attacks. “ISIS is planning to attack some areas around Kirkuk, but we are ready to confront them,” he said.
For the past two months, Iraq’s Shiite-led government has been trying to flush out ISIS militants from Sunni-majority Anbar province. The militants used an opportunity of year-long anti-government protests in Anbar to gain a foothold there.
Authorities say that over the past few days the ISIS has sent threatening letters to the Court of Kirkuk and the North Oil Company.
Azad Jalal, deputy director of security in Kirkuk for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), believes that the ISIS is angered by the new security plan in Kirkuk, which he said had maintained peace for the past three weeks.
“Setting temporary checkpoints and intensifying surveillance has reduced violence by 80 percent. But this plan is only implemented inside Kirkuk,” Jalal added.
ISIS, a relatively new name in the list of extremist groups, shares the same ideology and objectives as al-Qaeda. Now, the group is flexing its muscles at the Iraqi army in Suleiman Bag, a small town in Salaheddin province.
“Even when the Iraqi army controls Suleiman Beg in daytime, at night the ISIS restart their activities,” said Rebwar Taha, head of the anti-terrorism department of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Kirkuk.
“If ISIS is defeated in Anbar province it will be defeated in all the other provinces, because all their forces are in Anbar and they have confronted the Iraqi army very harshly there,” Taha said.
There have been clear indications that the ISIS is indeed trying to move the conflict into Kirkuk. At least 10 people were killed and 75 wounded in a brazen daytime attack by ISIS forces on Kirkuk’s main Jawahir shopping mall in December.
Security sources say that whenever refugees shelter in Kirkuk, they bring with them security issues.
“Conflicts in other provinces bring refugees to Kirkuk. Among refugees there are small groups of suicide bombers and terrorists. Of course we are expecting to pay the price of settling Anbar refugees in Kirkuk,” said a security official in Kirkuk.