Sheikh Jafar Mustafa: Barzani Ordered Peshmerga to Liberate Bahsir Village
A Kurdish Peshmerga Commander said the liberation of Bashir Village was a strategic event and the liberating operation was ordered by President of Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani.
“The local people in this area had called on Peshmarga forces to drive out the militants from the village for quite some time,” said Jaafar Mustafa, commander of the 70th Peshmarga Brigade in the area. “We operated at their request.”
A top official at the ministry of peshmarga told Rudaw Wednesday that the Kurdish forces would remain in the areas they recapture from the ISIS militants.
The Deputy Minister of Peshmarga, Anwar Osman, said the withdrawal of their troops from areas close to the Kurdish borders could lead to security vacuum as the Iraqi army is currently engaged in other regions and unable to patrol neighboring warzones.
“Peshmarga forces will primarily operate in Kurd- ish areas and when such places are liberated, our troops will remain there,” Osman said.
Osman said the decision will also include the predominately Turkmen village of Bashir which was retaken from the militants last week after heavy fighting in which three Peshmerga soldiers were killed along with 17 wounded.
Military officials said the village was in a strategic location from where ISIS often fired rockets at the Peshmerga, sometimes armed with chemical gas.
The majority of the Turkmen residents in the village of Bashir are Shiite Turkmen Muslims. Kurdish authorities fear that Shiite militias would enter the region and recruit the young Turkmen and stir sectarian tensions.
“We predict that the Shiite militias will capitalize on the vulnerable young population of this area and create the same situation that we witnessed in Khurmatu,” said Hasan Baram a top Kurdish representative in the region, referring to the last week’s tensions between Kurdish and Shiite forces in Khurmatu, which left some thirty people killed and dozens more wounded.
The Nineveh Plains west of Kirkuk and areas south of the oil rich city are home to Iraq’s mixt population with different ethnic and religious backgrounds. In most of these villages Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Christians and many other groups have lived together for centuries.
After the collapse of the Baathist rule in Iraq in 2003, these areas came under a new constitutional article which designated them as disputed territories whose future was to be decided in a referen- dum.
But since no referendum was ever held, different groups may try to assert authority through military presence.
Kurdish military sources say the majority of the villages south of Kirkuk and neighboring Nineveh Plains are currently controlled by ISIS militants with the support of the lo- cal Sunni population.
“We fear that the Shiite militias are doing the same and take the charge in the areas with predominate Shiite residents,” Baram said, fearing wider sectarian standoff.
“We really hope that Khurmatu was just an isolated case,” he added.