U.S. and allied air attacks have played a crucial role in defeating a massive attack by Islamic Sate militants to invade the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, the governor of Kirkuk Province said.
Najumdeen Kareem said Kurdish forces, known locally as peshmerqa, inflicted heavy losses on the militants, killing 300 and destroying 30 armored vehicles.
“The allied air cover has had a big role in defeating the terrorist attack by Da’esh on Kirkuk,” said Kareem. Kirkuk, a major oil center, is the capital of Kirkuk Province. Da’esh is the local name for the Islamic State.
Kurdish forces occupied Kirkuk when Islamic State militants invaded northern and western parts of the country. They initially avoided Kurdish areas but then started attacking Kurdish cities prompting the U.S. to send in its bombers.
“The peshmerga liberated several positions among the al-Khabbaz oil field, killing 300 militants,” Kareem said.
However, he said the Kurds were in need of supplies and weapons and urged the central government in Baghdad to increase its aid.
Shiite volunteers are reported to be arriving in Kirkuk in hundreds. Kareem said the volunteers were being integrated into the joint Kurdish and Iraqi force defending the province.
The attack by the Islamic State on Kirkuk was the largest since the group’s invasion of Iraq in June last year, which saw the government losing control over six of Iraq’s 18 provinces.
Reports say fierce fighting is raging close to Kirkuk and Kareem has openly called for assistance in terms of military supplies, fighters and more raids by U.S. and allies on militant positions around the city.