Islamic State militants struck at Kurdish forces southwest of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Friday morning, while bombs in Baghdad and Samarra killed at least 21 people, security and medical sources said.
Police in the northern province of Kirkuk said Islamic State launched mortars and attacked positions of Kurdish peshmerga fighters in four districts southwest of Kirkuk city.
Islamic State has frequently battled Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militias further south and west since the radical jihadist group surged across the Syrian border last summer, but attacks on the outskirts of Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk have been less frequent.
A peshmerga officer told Reuters his forces had recaptured the district of Mariam Bek but said clashes were ongoing in Tal al-Ward, Maktab Khalid and Mullah Abdullah.
Medical sources said at least four Kurdish fighters were killed in the fighting, including senior commander Brigadier Sherko Fatih, and at least 70 others were wounded.
More than 750 peshmerga have been killed in combat since Islamic State overran their defenses in northern Iraq last summer, prompting U.S.-led air strikes.
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.
BOMBS IN SAMARRA, BAGHDAD
Security sources said at least 18 people were killed when two bombs went off in Baghdad’s Bab al-Sharqi district on Friday morning, home to a large market and across the Tigris river from the Green Zone, which houses most government buildings.
Bombings are frequent in Baghdad, where Sunni insurgents from Islamic State, which controls large swathes of territory in Iraq’s north and west, regularly conduct suicide attacks.
Three civilians were later killed and at least 10 others wounded in northwestern Baghdad when mortars landed in residential neighborhoods, police and medics said.
Police in the holy city of Samarra, about 125 km (80 miles) north of the capital, said two suicide bombers targeted a security checkpoint in the city center, killing three and wounding five members of the police and Shi’ite militias.
Police say they thwarted a third suicide attack by shooting a suspected militant, but clashes broke out on the western outskirts of Samarra following another explosion, with police and militias battling Islamic State fighters.
Samarra holds potent symbolism for Iraqis. In February 2006 Sunni militants blew up a shrine to the ninth century Imam Askari, triggering revenge attacks by Shi’ites which tipped Iraq into years of sectarian violence.