World Bulletin/News Desk
The Kurdish Regional Government's defense minister survived two bomb blasts in northern Iraqi city Kirkuk on Thursday, a Kurdish security source said.
Two people accompanying Sheikh Jaafar Mustapha were killed in the blast after he had visited Peshmerga forces -- who he is responsible for -- in Kirkuk, where they had been battling for control of the city with militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL.
Mustafa said that 10 of his troops were killed and 20 others wounded during clashes with ISIL militants in different towns in Kirkuk. He said that Peshmerga forces has now complete control of the oil-rich city.
Mustafa said Peshmerga forces will remain there to defend the city against any other possible attack.
Iraqi army air strikes in eastern province Diyali killed dozens of ISIL militants and destroyed their vehicles, an official from the mayor's office said.
Sadiq Husseini told the Anadolu Agency that the army would continue its operations against ISIL in the northern part of Diyali, which borders Kirkuk.
ISIL militants blew up a bridge in the town of Badush, 30 kilometers west of the northern city of Mosul on Thursday, in order to prevent approaching Kurdish Peshmerga forces from reaching the town. An eyewitness in Badush said the militants used a pickup truck packed with explosives to destroy the bridge.
A tribal source in Mosul said ISIL militants nominated two retired military officers to be the governors of city.
Eyewitnesses saw two helicopters flying above the city, which were reportedly taken from a Mosul army base on Tuesday.
According to earlier reports, the largest city of Salahuddin province, Samarra, was surrounded by ISIL militants, however, the leader of the Iraqi military operation, Sabah al-Fatlawi, has denied that the militants took over the city.
Fatlawi told the Anadolu Agency over phone that Samarra was still controlled by the Iraqi army, adding that they were expecting reinforcements to prevent militants from regaining the city. He also denied reports that militants captured the town of Balad, 85 kilometers north of Baghdad.
Iraq's central government has been struggling to regain control of parts of northern Iraq since ISIL took control of Mosul and its surrounding Nineveh province. On Wednesday, they attacked several other cities and were able to wrest control of Tikrit, 140 kilometers from capital Baghdad.
On Thursday, ISIL released a statement calling on its fighters to "creep" towards Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf to "settle scores" with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. An AA correspondent said ISIL are only 100 kilometers from Baghdad.
"The real battle will be in Baghdad and Karbala," said Abu Mohammed Adnani Shami, who presented himself as ISIL's spokesperson. He called on fighters "not to cede an inch of seized land and to prevent Shia from setting foot on it."
Photos published on a Twitter page believed to be operated by ISIL showed them using bulldozers to remove barriers on the Syria-Iraq border and crossing into Iraq with military vehicles.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces and Iraqi special forces have tried to deflect ISIL forces from entering cities in northern Iraq. ISIL have control of western province Anbar, where they have long had a presence.
A Kurdish security force told the AA that they killed 20 ISIL fighters who crossed into Iraq from Syria, during an hour-long clash in the western province of Sinjar on Thursday morning.
In Kirkuk, Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces are preparing to take back the Hawija and Rashad areas from ISIL, Serhat Qadir, the head of local police, told the AA.
Forces deployed in Kirkuk's Multaqa sub-district, just 24 kilometers from the city, are under ISIL's control. Other parts of Kirkuk are under control of Peshmerga forces, but residents are stockpiling food and gasoline in case of a possible ISIL attack.
Earlier Thursday, unidentified people looted military headquarters, which had been evacuated after an ISIL threat, taking all military vehicles, weapons, handcuffs and military uniforms.
Officials said Iraq's army appointed new commanders to head operations in the northern Salahuddin province on Thursday.
Late on Wednesday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of military leaders who reportedly left their posts when ISIL militants attacked Mosul, a source close to the prime minister's office told the AA on condition of anonymity.
ISIL was established shortly after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and was most recognizably known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, under the leadership of Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Al Qaeda's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri cut ties with the group in February 2014 because of a dispute with another militant group, the Al Nusra Front.
Iraq has seen a marked increase in violence in recent months, which the government blames on ISIL.
Last Mod: 12 Haziran 2014, 17:53