Islamic State Attacks Oil-Rich Kirkuk in Iraq, Taking Hostages

(Bloomberg) -- Islamic State militants launched attacks in Iraq’s oil-rich province of Kirkuk on Friday, killing at least 10 people at a power station and taking hostages in mosques and homes, a Kurdish news service said.

Civilians were urged to stay indoors after the surprise pre-dawn violence that included suicide bombers, according to the Rudaw news service, which posted footage and pictures from the region’s main city, also Kirkuk. Militants blew up at least three cars and attacked and occupied a former police station before they were driven out, Rudaw said, citing the city’s chief of police.

All oil fields around the city are safe, Rudaw reported, citing KAR Group, the region’s largest oil company.

The attacks come as Islamic State is trying to repel a major coalition offensive on Mosul, the group’s last major stronghold in OPEC’s second-largest oil producer. Thousands of Iraqi ground troops backed by Kurdish fighters have been advancing toward Mosul since Monday, more than two years after Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi swept into the city and declared a so-called caliphate.

In Kirkuk, which lies between Mosul and Baghdad, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a power station in the town of Dubiz, Rudaw said, citing the town’s mayor. A third attacker was shot by security forces. Four Iranian workers were killed, Rudaw said on Twitter, though it didn’t clarify if the they were included in the overall toll.

Armed local residents and volunteers were pouring into areas to fend off the Islamic State attacks, Rudaw said.

“It was expected that ISIS sleeper cells would make a move one day in Kirkuk now that the Mosul offensive has started, and they want to boost their own morale this way,” Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim told the news service, using an acronym for Islamic State.