Last week, members of the Islamic State launched an attack on a power grid linked to the cities of Tikrit and Hawija, both cities are located just outside of Kirkuk. Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity stated that there was a total loss of power due to the attack, something not entirely uncommon to the region but a dangerous precedent to future attacks. The attack has demonstrated Iraq’s vulnerability in regard to infrastructure and if a future attack is properly executed, could potentially be catastrophic.
The attack was carried out Thursday night in a small village called Birima located within Kirkuk’s regional control. Specifically, two primary power lines were destroyed. The lines carried electricity to Tikrit and Hawija, both cities are mostly Sunni in population and experienced a total blackout. The Ministry of Electricity clarified that repairs were made by an engineering team that was able to get the lines up and running in an expedient manner, leading to a complete restoration of power for the afflicted cities. The team began, “maintenance work to restore service lines despite the presence of military operations in the area,” according to the ministry.
Since the Islamic States rise and fall from power, they have targeted transmission towers as well as oil pipelines in an attempt to disarm government forces. These acts of infrastructure sabotage are often carried out using explosives and coordinated diversion tactics. Iraqi security forces are currently stretched thin in the region and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi — who declared victory over ISIS last December when Mosul fell — has proposed standing up a new Kurdish security force that would specifically operate out of the Kirkuk region to reinforce existing troops.
The Islamic State remains active in the region and sleeper cells continue to ambush and assault checkpoints, military personnel, and key infrastructure when the opportunity presents itself. Iraq, to this day, is still plagued by sporadic power outages and rolling blackouts throughout the country despite the rather organized government system which is, in part, suffering from corruption at all levels. The lack of a reliable power grid causes a great deal of hardships for citizens and forces key government facilities such as hospitals and military installations to rely on diesel-powered generators as backup power supplies.