Sunni insurgents, Kurds battle over north Iraq town

BAGHDAD Sat Aug 2, 2014 3:09pm EDT

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State militants fought Kurdish forces on Saturday for the northern Iraqi town of Zumar located near an oil field and the Syrian border amid conflicting reports of who was in control.

Jabbar Yawar, secretary general of the Kurdish peshmerga fighters, said his forces controlled Zumar and reinforcements were on the way.

But four residents in different parts of the town said by telephone that Islamic State fighters were in control.

"Many Islamic State vehicles are wandering the town of Zumar and I can also see the flags on top of buildings," said one resident.

The group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant staged a lighting advance through northern Iraq in June, seizing large swathes of land in the biggest challenge to the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Control of Zumar by Islamic State fighters would give them access to the small Ain Zalah oil field and a nearby refinery. The insurgents have already seized four oil fields, which help fund their operations.

A Kurdish police official in Zumar said Islamic State fighters in pickup trucks mounted with weapons attacked the town from three directions early on Saturday. There were no immediate details of casualties.

Islamic State's offensive has whipped up sectarian tensions and threatened to dismember Iraq. The sectarian conflict poses the gravest danger to the OPEC member's stability since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein after a U.S.-led invasion.

Shi'ite militias and Kurdish fighters now rival the U.S.-trained and funded Iraqi army in their ability to challenge the insurgents.

Islamic State has declared a medieval-style caliphate spanning parts of Iraq and Syria under its control, alarming other Arab states who fear their advance will embolden militants on their patch.

The Sunni insurgents have stalled their advance towards Baghdad just before the town of Samarra, 100 km (62 miles) north of the capital.

(Reporting by Raheem Salman and Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Lynne O'Donnell)

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Comments (11)
DURO wrote:
Caliphate is a joke, a disguise for a bunch of thugs involved in all aspects of theft, rapes, killings, kidnappings. Criminals from every corner are joining. I guess as long as one Muslim kills another Muslim, we would stay put.

Aug 02, 2014 12:20pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
nose2066 wrote:
This story: “The insurgents have already seized four oil fields, which help fund their operations.”

To whom are the insurgents selling the oil? Are any Western companies buying the oil? Isn’t this the equivalent of “Blood Diamonds”? Who would buy oil from terrorists?

Aug 02, 2014 12:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ARJTurgot2 wrote:
Which are the same questions I have. The Kurds just had a shipment blocked in Texas, and their boats have been wandering looking for places that will take it. ISIS has had those fields a few months, if not weeks, how are they productive and shipping?

Aug 02, 2014 12:53pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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