Kurd fighters battle al Qaeda supporters in Northern Iraq; Casualties reported
Some 20 Kurdish militiamen were killed or injured Wednesday in a battle with Islamic militants believed to be linked to al-Qaeda in northern Iraq, Kurdish military officials said.
Militants from the Ansar al-Islam seized two hilltop positions of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan near the city of Halabja, said Sheik Jaffar Mustafa of the Kurdish militia, according to AP.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is the de facto authority in the Halabja area. The milita and its rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, control the Kurdish autonomous zone in Iraq.
Mustafa said he believed his force had suffered about 20 casualties, but he did not know how had been killed and how many wounded because his side had been unable to retrieve the bodies.
Mustafa said the Islamic militant fighters had succeeded because the PUK had sent some of its forces home on leave for Eid el-Fitr.
The Islamic holiday starts on Thursday and marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. "They took advantage of the situation," he said. "Everywhere in the Muslim world people usually stop fighting for Ramadan." (Albawaba.com)