KIRKUK Iraq (Reuters) - Sunni Muslim militants attacked a northern Iraqi village inhabited by Shi‘ite ethnic Turkmens but were repelled, police said on Tuesday, highlighting an upsurge of sectarian violence after stunning advances by jihadi fighters.
The militants were beaten back from the village of Basheer, 15 km (9 miles) south of the city of Kirkuk after an hour of clashes with local militia and police forces.
The government of Shi‘ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking to repel the Sunni militants who have seized several cities over the past week.
Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other Sunni militants have swept through towns in the Tigris valley north of Baghdad in recent days but appeared to have halted their advance outside the capital on Sunday as they tightened their grip on the north.
ISIL’s advance may pose the biggest security crisis to Iraq since the worst of the sectarian bloodshed that followed the U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Iraqi state news channel “Iraqiya” said that the army had killed two commanders from ISIL on Tuesday. It did not say where in Iraq.
Reporting by Mustafa Mahmoud; Writing by Oliver Holmes; editing by David Stamp