The Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) launched a relatively rare attack behind Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, briefly occupying a local government compound located in the vicinity of several oil-producing fields.
Kurdish peshmerga fighters have managed to largely prevent ISIS incursions into their autonomous region.
“Security sources said a suicide bomber had blown himself up at a checkpoint, clearing the way for three other militants to enter the compound in the town of Dibis 50 km (30 miles) south of the regional capital Erbil,” reports Reuters.
The three insurgents then seized the office of the mayor of Dibis, throwing grenades and firing at Kurdish security forces, reportedly added the security sources.
Security sources also indicated that “Kurdish forces regained control after one of the militants was shot dead and the other two blew themselves up.”
ISIS militants killed four members of the Kurdish security forces and wounded 15 other people, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Reuters learned from Police Chief Serhat Qader that a sleeper cell in Dibis, which has a mixed Arab and Kurdish population, probably carried out the attack.
The residents of Dibis, which is part of Iraq’s Kirkuk province, were subjected to a curfew after the Kurds pushed ISIS out of the town.
Dibis sits near the Bai Hassan oilfield, located northwest of the provincial capital of Kirkuk, far from ISIS-held areas in the province, reports AFP.
Kurdish forces regained control of Dibis after it was taken over by ISIS when the jihadist group overran around a third of the country and the Iraqi army’s northern division fled in June 2014.
“Attacks in Kurdish-held areas of Kirkuk province that are behind the front lines have decreased compared with before the offensive, and Dibis had not been attacked for more than a year,” notes AFP.
The Kurdish peshmerga fighters, backed by the U.S.-led airstrikes, have driven back ISIS in the north, expanding their to region to include disputed territory claimed by both Kurds and Arabs.
U.S. officials have indicated that American ground troops will be assisting Iraqi and Kurdish forces in their fight against ISIS.
On Oct. 23, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said he expected the United States to conduct more ground raids against ISIS in support of American partners or unilaterally.
“We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground,” declared Carter when testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Oct. 27.
On Friday, President Obama announced the deployment of up to 50 U.S. special operations forces to assist Arab and Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.
A top State Department official told lawmakers on Wednesday that Arab allies were considering deploying their own ground troops into Syria to combat ISIS.
“We’ve had lots of discussions with our gulf allies and with Jordan about the possibility of introducing ground troops,” Anne Patterson, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.