Kur­dish Pesh­merga tar­get Is­lamic State in Kirkuk

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS -

The Kur­dish Pesh­merga forces, backed by US air strikes, have launched an of­fen­sive against the Is­lamic State mil­i­tants in the oil-rich Kirkuk Prov­ince.

The Pesh­merga re­port­edly be­gan ad­vanc­ing along a front­line south-west of the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal on Mon­day.

Their hold over Kirkuk - con­sol­i­dated when Iraq's army fled an IS ad­vance last sum­mer - has come un­der fresh attack from IS this year.

IS has also sent fighters to re­pel an Iraqi as­sault on the city of Tikrit.

Iraqi troops and Shia mili­tias are at­tempt­ing to drive IS ji­hadists from Tikrit, the Sunni Arab home­town of for­mer dic­ta­tor Sad­dam Hus­sein.

The BBC has learnt that mil­i­tants from Mo­sul, the largest city un­der IS con­trol in Iraq, have been di­verted to fend off the as­sault on Tikrit.

Mil­i­tary of­fi­cials from Iran, whose Shia gov­ern­ment has backed the Iraqi mili­tias, are also tak­ing part in the Tikrit op­er­a­tion.

The Shia-dom­i­nated na­ture of the force has prompted con­cerns that Sunni Arabs in Tikrit area could face re­venge at­tacks dur­ing the ad­vance.

Fur­ther north, the Pesh­merga be­gan shelling along the front­line with IS early on Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to Reuters news agency.

The US had ear­lier car­ried out air strikes on IS po­si­tions in the area.

Ear­lier this year, the mil­i­tants at­tacked Kur­dish out­posts out­side the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal, threat­en­ing to over-run the city.

Kirkuk and Tikrit are seen as the mil­i­tants' ma­jor strongholds east of the Ti­gris River.

As the bat­tles con­tin­ued, Iraqi De­fence Min­is­ter Khalid al-Obeidi said his coun­try was com­fort­able re­ceiv­ing mil­i­tary aid from Iran as well as from the US.

"We are in dire need be­cause we are at war," he said dur­ing a visit to Iraq by the top US mil­i­tary com­man­der, Gen Martin Dempsey. "I think the sit­u­a­tion is bal­anced."

Gen Dempsey mean- while ap­pealed for "strate­gic pa­tience" in the cam­paign against IS, stress­ing that "un­der­ly­ing is­sues" - such as strength­en­ing the Iraqi army and re­duc- ing Sunni Arab alien­ation - had yet to be re­solved.

"Car­pet-bomb­ing through Iraq is not the an­swer," he said.

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