Iraqi Kurdish officials blamed the lack of proper coordination between the country's federal and regional security forces for a major Islamic State (IS) attack over the weekend that left three Kurdish military officers dead and two wounded.
The attack Saturday targeted a unit for the Kurdish peshmerga forces in Altun Kupri, a district in the oil-rich Kirkuk province, which is part of the so-called disputed territories between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the north.
"We have repeatedly warned Iraq's federal government and the International Coalition Against ISIS of a resurgent ISIS and of the continued threats by the terror group taking advantage of a security vacuum in the disputed territories," KRG's President Nechirvan Barzani said in a statement following the attack, using an acronym for IS.
He urged his federal counterparts and the international partners "to accelerate the formation of the joint forces" in the disputed territories to prevent "real threats" posed by the terror group.
In what appeared to be a response to Barzani's calls, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Sunday met with top regional and federal security officials to discuss joint efforts to counter IS.
Following the meeting, the Iraqi leader issued "several directives to the security forces that included the activation of intelligence and security efforts and preemptive operations," according to a statement from Kadhimi's office.
Jabar Yawar, a Kurdish official who represented the peshmerga in the meeting, told local media that increased intelligence-sharing was one of the measures taken to help "fill the security vacuum."
Additionally, Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Mohamed al-Halbousi arrived in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, to discuss a range of political and security issues with the region's leaders. Iraqi officials have begun efforts to form coalitions for the country's parliamentary elections set for October.
In recent weeks, IS extremists have stepped up their attacks in Kirkuk and other disputed territories.
'U.S. remains committed'
In response to the weekend attack, the U.S. Consulate in Erbil said, "The U.S. remains committed to standing with (the) Peshmerga and other Iraqi security forces to ensure that ISIS is completely defeated."
The IS attack happened as Muslims are observing Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, during which Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.
Islamist extremist groups often increase their attacks during this month, believing there is a greater divine reward for martyrdom.
On Monday, Colonel Wayne Marotto, spokesman for the U.S.-led global coalition against IS, said on Twitter that "the coalition is working closely with our (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) KRI and (the government of Iraq) GOI partners to address the security challenges and violent terrorist attacks."
Marotto added that the global coalition "has supported establishing coordination centers along the (Kurdish Coordination Line) KCL and commends the improving relationship and renewed willingness to coordinate on the part of both governments and their security forces."
The slain Kurdish soldiers included a captain named Pishtiwan Zirari and two other lower-ranking commanders — Idris Bahram, 34, and Hemin Yahia, 35. Local media reported that the three men were married and left behind a total of a dozen children.
"I had been counting (the) days for my dad to return for Eid," one of the children said on national TV, referring to the three-day festivities that mark the end of Ramadan.