Kurds, ISIS battle in northern Iraq

Kurds, ISIS battle in northern Iraq

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A black ISIS terrorist flag flies over land once controlled by Iraqi forces. (Source: CNN) A black ISIS terrorist flag flies over land once controlled by Iraqi forces. (Source: CNN)

SALAHUDDIN PROVINCE, IRAQ (CNN) - In central Iraq, Kurdish forces are fighting back on Monday against the Sunni militants.

They defended a strategic outpost from an ISIS attack this weekend.

A day before, south of Tuz Khourmatu, ISIS had attacked and caught the Kurdish Peshmerga unit off guard.

It won't happen again.

Peshmerga Commander Col. Hakim Karim Ahmed watched ISIS appear just an hour after the Iraqi army withdrew, casually staking their claim without firing a single shot.

That used to be with the army, he says, pointing out a two-story building just a couple hundred meters away. It now flies an ISIS flag.

Another flag is planted on the water tower.

The battle lines are drawn, but for over a week not crossed. Then came the ISIS assault.

They came at us from three directions, and Ahmed said the battle lasted for six hours.

In the distance sits an Iraqi military vehicle commandeered by ISIS.

The intersection that this combat outpost is protecting is incredibly strategic. Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit in one direction. The oil rich city of Kirkuk to the north. Sulaimaniye in Iraqi Kurdistan to the east, and then to the south, a two-hour drive, a straight shot to the capital of Baghdad.

Ahmed remembers it was ISIS fighters and also people from the tribes in the assault.

It's a murky dangerous alliance that's opening multiple fronts toward Baghdad, and testing the Peshmerga's resolve in the north.

The Kurds had two casualties during the firefight. One of their commanders was killed. Some blood stains can still be seen.

The Kurds - a population with a long and tormented history - vow they won't give up the land. As ISIS and Sunni fighters carve out their territory, the Kurds are making sure they stay out of theirs.

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