(Reuters) – Islamic State 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 Islamic State 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 Islamic State seized last June.
Islamic State 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.