- The Washington Times - Friday, January 30, 2015

The Islamic State on Friday killed a senior Kurdish commander and several of his fellow fighters during a surprise attack on a Kurdish-controlled city in northern Iraq, evoking the ire of the Pentagon.

Brig. Gen. Sherko Fatih was killed in Kirkuk just after midnight by Islamic State militants, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL. Militants tried to overwhelm Kurdish forces in four districts and take over the Kirkuk Palace Hotel after detonating a bomb in front of it during a rare offensive in the heart of the city, Reuters reported.

Kurdish fighters have been working side by side with the U.S. military and its international allies to quash efforts by the extremist group to gain control of towns and territories in Iraq and Syria.

Pentagon officials on Friday afternoon condemned the spate in violence.

In a statement issued by Combined Joint Task Force, the mouthpiece for a U.S.-led coalition that has been dropping bombs on the militants, officials blasted the attack and offered condolences to the victims.

“The acts of violence that occurred today in Iraq show ISIL’s willingness to attack the ordinary citizens of Iraq,” the statement reads. “These were acts of desperation and show ISIL’s callousness to attack even those who were offering aid to victims. ISIL cannot win against the Iraqi people but only frighten them.”

Lawmakers on Friday depicted the brazen attack as a crime of opportunity, sparked in part by the inability of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to unite the country’s two Muslim religious groups — the majority Sunnis and the minority Shiites.

Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, told CNN that Mr. al-Abadi’s lackluster efforts to broker a power sharing agreement between may have emboldened the militants.

“I think ISIS senses a vulnerability,” the Washington Democrat said.

The Islamic State’s incursion into the center of Kirkuk is a fresh setback for Kurdish forces, which has had 800 of its fighters killed in combat operations since the Islamic State overran northern Iraq in summer 2014, Reuters reported.

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