World Bulletin/News Desk
ISIL militants have killed at least 24 members of the Kurdish security forces in a surprise attack in northern Iraq, Kurdish officials said, in one of the deadliest single battles for the Kurds since last summer.
Three Kurdish officers reported continued clashes with ISIL on Sunday, one day after the deaths, near Gwer, a town some 40km (25 miles) southwest of the autonomous Kurdish region's capital Arbil.
Kurdish-controlled Gwer is likely to be a launch-pad for any future attempt by Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake Mosul, the biggest city in northern Iraq which ISIL seized last June.
ISIL militants crossed the river Zab in small boats on Friday night and entered Gwer, but were driven back by Kurdish peshmerga forces, the officers said.
"We've been engaged in fighting with them for the past two days," said one senior Kurdish officer on the Gwer frontline as the sound of gunfire rattled in the background.
The officer, who asked to remain anonymous, said around 60 militants in total had been killed and that by intecepting the frequency they used to communicate via walkie-talkie and listening in, it appeared many more were injured.
Both he and another officer blamed the Iraqi army for allowing the militants to reach Gwer. They accused Iraqi soliders of abandoning a forward position when they came under attack, leaving the town exposed.
REFINERY UNDER ATTACK
The peshmerga launched a ground offensive to drive IS militants out of the Gwer area in late December, retaking several villages with the help of coalition airstrikes.
ISIL said on Friday it had launched a counter-attack against the peshmerga with a range of weapons including TOW missiles and rockets, killing dozens, including a senior officer.
More than 750 peshmerga have been killed in combat since ISIL overran their defences in northern Iraq last summer, prompting the first airstrikes by the United States.
The Kurds have now regained most of the ground they lost in August. However, peshmerga commanders complain they remain ill-equipped compared with the militants, who plundered Iraqi arms depots when they overran Mosul in June.
Elsewhere, ISIL fighters attacked the refinery of Baiji in northern Iraq on Sunday, a security officer said.
Twenty mortar rounds were fired at the refinery, followed by a car bomb and three hours of fighting before the militants retreated, he said.
Baghdad's forces and ISIL have battled since June for control of the refinery and its neighbouring town.
"FREE MOSUL" PLAN
A military operation to regain control of northern Iraq's Mosul city from the ISIL was discussed Sunday between Iraq’s central and Kurdistan regional governments in Baghdad.
According to Iraqi presidential office, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani and Iraqi Vice President Osama Najafi discussed a plan to liberate Mosul.
Both sides also discussed the status of military camps and security forces around the city.
The Iraqi Kurdish government promised to support Iraqi army in the planned Mosul operation.
They also agreed on many other issues, including a decision to punish some Iraqi tribal leaders who aided terrorists and committed violence against innocent people.
Coordination between Peshmerga forces, military troops and volunteer fighters would be provided by the governor of Mosul Atheel al-Najafi and city council members during rescue operations in the mission to free Mosul, the statement said.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 11 Ocak 2015, 16:48