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Saddam's Cousin Arrested In ISIS Attack on Kirkuk

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Nasar Hamoud Abdulghani was found hiding in an empty water storage tank with several weapons and over a thousand bullets following an ISIS offensive against the Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Oct. 21, local police report. The attack left 90 dead and 200 injured.

Abdulghani is the cousin of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, and served as a member of his personal security service, according to AhlulBayt News Agency. 

He was discovered in the southern Kirkuk district of Daquq, where he had fled after sneaking into the city with other ISIS militants for the attack. 

The assault, which was an attempt to divert security forces from advancing on Mosul, consisted of over 100 IS fighters, according to Reuters. Mosque loudspeakers broadcast the message, "Islamic State has taken over."

"They looked wild. ...," said Halo Najat Hamza, director of Kurdish security and intelligence force Asayesh, Reuters reports. "They were the most professional fighters that I have seen since 2003."

On a Samsung Galaxy phone found on the body of one of the fighters, authorities found footage of targets filmed prior to the attack. Iraq's former foreign minister Hoshiyar Zebari said, "It involved a lot of preparation."

The fighters were dressed in Afghan robes, though locals who encountered them said they spoke in a local Iraqi dialect. Officials did not find any evidence to suggest they were foreign combatants. 

Residents reported seeing cars drive up and drop off ammunition for the fighters. "There are sleeper cells who cooperated with them," Hamza alleged. "They have a deep animosity toward Kurds, Shi'ites and the central government."

As the scale of the attack became clear, officials called for 3,000 reinforcements from Erbil and Suleimaniya. The U.S. military also carried out airstrikes. The assault lasted about 14 hours with additional isolated fighting over the following two days. 

The Guardian reports that after hearing that the situation in Kirkuk was serious, a force of around 500 Kurdish peshmerga fighters abandoned their post at Khazer, just east of Mosul on the front line of the assault to take the ISIS stronghold. 

ISIS had set fire to a sulfur plant near Mosul, sending toxic fumes across the battlefield. US forces distributed around 24,000 gas masks to allies, fearing that ISIS would use chemical weapons.

A Kurdish fighter who was wounded in Kirkuk said that what he saw there made him re-evaluate the challenge of taking Mosul.

"These militants were not familiar with the layout of the city, and only held two hotels and a few other buildings," he said, "and it still took us two days to finish them off. They are familiar with Mosul, they have dug tunnels and made preparations for over two years. Many will die in the city."

Sources: AhlulBayt News Agency, Reuters, The Guardian / Photo credit: Iraqi News

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