Pesh­merga valiantly drive back ISIS

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

Kur­dish forces said they drove the Is­lamic State mil­i­tants out of vil­lages near the oil city of Kirkuk in north­ern Iraq on Wed­nes­day, in an of­fen­sive backed by air strikes from the U.S.-led coali­tion.

The as­sault con­sol­i­dated their con­trol over Kirkuk and brought the Pesh­merga closer to the in­sur­gents' bas­tion of Haw­ija, around 55 km (34 miles) west of Kirkuk.

Around 3,500 Pesh­merga took part in the op­er­a­tion be­gin­ning early on Wed­nes­day south­west of Kirkuk, the Kur­dis­tan Re­gion's Se­cu­rity Coun­cil said in a state­ment.

By late af­ter­noon, Kur­dish forces had se­cured 140 square km (55 square miles) in­clud­ing a num­ber of vil­lages and the Ghara heights, "fur­ther di­min­ish­ing ISIL's abil­ity to at­tack Pesh­merga forces and putting ad­di­tional pres­sure on ISIL in Haw­ija."

Kur­dis­tan's Se­cu­rity Coun­cil said at least 40 Is­lamic State mil­i­tants had been killed in com­bat and oth­ers were seen flee­ing the bat­tle­field to­ward Haw­ija and sur­round­ing ar­eas. Fif­teen Pesh­merga also were mar­tyred, ac­cord­ing to a source in a Kirkuk hos­pi­tal.

Coali­tion war­planes struck 30 mil­i­tant po­si­tions dur­ing the ground of­fen­sive, in­clud­ing three Humvees, three pick-up trucks and a sui­cide car bomb, the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil said.

There was no im­me­di­ate in­de­pen­dent con­fir­ma­tion of the de­tails of the re­port or com­ment from the co- ali­tion forces.

The Kurds took full con­trol of Kirkuk last sum­mer when the Iraqi sol­diers aban­doned their bases in and around the city as Is­lamic State mil­i­tants over­ran around a third of the coun­try.

The Pesh­merga, who have gained bat­tle­field ex­pe­ri­ence fight­ing Sad­dam Hus­sein's forces when the au­to­crat was in power, are seen by the United States and its coali­tion part­ners as a vi­tal de­ter­rent against the Is­lamic State, which wants to re­draw the map of the Mid­dle East.

Kur­dish lead­ers say they will never give up the eth­ni­cally mixed city, which sits out­side the for­mal bound­ary of their re­gion on some of Iraq's largest oil re­serves.

The Pesh­merga have been widen­ing a buf­fer around Kirkuk city in a se­ries of of­fen­sives in re­cent months.

Apart from the gains around Kirkuk, the front­line be­tween Pesh­merga and the Is­lamic State has hardly moved for months.

The Is­lamic State has not been able to take ground from the Pesh­merga since the U.S.-led coali­tion started bomb­ing the in­sur­gents.

The Kurds al­ready con­trol most of the ter­ri­tory they claim as their own, and have lit­tle in­cen­tive to push fur­ther into pre­dom­i­nantly Arab towns and vil­lages, ex­cept when there is a di­rect threat to their re­gion.

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