ISIS sleeper cells awaken in Kirkuk
Recent ISIS attacks on Kurdish villages surrounding Kirkuk have frightened the residents of the city, who believe these attacks are the group’s dress rehearsal for resuming surprise attacks. They fear ISIS sleeper cells have now awakened.
“Daquq and Khurmatu are primary targets of ISIS militants,” the former director of Kirkuk police has said. But Iraqi military officials in Kirkuk have dismissed claims that ISIS still poses a threat to the city.
Brigadier General Sarhad Qadir, former director of Kirkuk’s suburban police department, says the situation is bad.
“ISIS militants have regrouped to attack the area. We have information that ISIS militants have not yet left the area. They remain in large numbers in Zaitun valley in the sub-district of Rashad, Zarga valley in the town of Daquq, and the valley of Abu Khanabir in the sub-district of Ryaz,” he said.
“ISIS militants attack Kurdish villages in cooperation with Salahaddin regiments that include many Kurds. That is why the majority of Kurdish villages in the town of Daquq, Dubis and Khurmatu have been deserted.”
He spoke of the 12 Kurds from these areas who have disappeared.
“There is no information about those who have been kidnapped,” he said.
Following the events of October 16, life has become difficult for Kurdish populations in disputed areas. They have been living under threat from extreme groups. Arab settlers have been brought to Kurdish areas.
Hassan Baram, head of the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) office in Kirkuk, said ISIS militants have regrouped and spread along the Hamrin Mountains.
“They carry out activities in the Sunni triangle and disputed areas. They are thriving in Arab areas,” he said.
“ISIS militants will attack some cities again. According to information, ISIS has slipped its sleeper cells into cities. Arab chauvinists have mingled with them too to expel Kurds in their areas.”
“They have an agenda to work on. They will face no weapons and ammunition problems because they can get weapons by attacking Iraqi Army the way they did when they first emerged and got their hands on large quantities of weapons and ammunition,” the CDJ official said.
However, an official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) denies ISIS is a looming threat to Kirkuk. Yasin Izzadin, deputy head of the PUK’s main headquarters in Kirkuk, attributed recent violence to “chauvinistic Arabs” rather than ISIS militants.
“They in cooperation with some regional countries want to practice an Arabization policy in the name of ISIS militants by expelling Kurds in the region and making them desert their villages,” he said.
“The main aim of ISIS militants is to attack Iraq Army.”
He didn’t name which countries are helping ISIS destabilize the situation in the region.
“The first step of the Arabization policy starts with villages, the second phase will start with towns of Daquq and Khurmatu,” he said.
He criticized the behavior of Iraqi forces.
“They have set up military bases in the area of Shwan and hilltops in the desert opposite Peshmerga forces in places which are not under threat, but have deserted other areas. This opens the door for the implementation of Arabization policy,” he said.
Kamal Kirkuki, commander of Peshmerga forces of west Kirkuk, said: “We see Kirkuk as a Hashd military base.”
“After Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces captured the city, many ISIS affiliates slipped into Hashd forces and entered the city this way. There are people within Kirkuk province who are heads of security in the province and Kirkuk provincial council and were known ISIS militants of high position in the past. And all the authorities know this well. These factors explain why the security of the city is in danger,” he added.
He said they have spoken to Baghdad about the return of Peshmerga forces to these areas to jointly manage the security of the city, but said they are not prepared to return until the situation normalizes.
“We will make a decision on this matter after forces brought here leave the area completely. We will not take Peshmerga forces to these places if they are in no strong position. Peshmerga forces will not return there as subordinate forces as is the case with some Peshmerga forces there who take orders from Hashd al-Shaabi forces,” he concluded.