Sunday, February 15, 2015

Will the US Continue Handling the Kurdish Aspirations the Hammering Way?

I wrote this article originally for BasNews, here is the link to the article.

Erbil - Kurds greatly appreciate the airstrikes by the US and coalition warplanes against the extremist group Islamic State. The strikes have played a key role in the Kurdish pushback to recapture areas they lost to the group also known as IS, ISIL and ISIS. But they have also been complaining recently that the US promised delivery of heavy weapons of which few have made their way into the Kurdistan Region that has become the forefront of the fight against ISIS while at the same time a bastion of peace for refugees as well as internally displaced people from other parts of Iraq. All this, despite an economic crisis that began last year when the Iraqi government cut off Kurdistan’s share of the Iraqi budget. 

There seems to be one main reason why the US is not so willing to directly arm the Kurds as it is in helping the Iraqi army: the weapons given to Kurds could be used later for Kurdish independence against Baghdad, and the US does not want to be blamed for “creating” a Kurdish state in the Middle East only to destabilize the region as the conspiracy theory goes. And while exploiting the weapons for independence may well be the reason why Kurds want the weapons so badly, there are several other reasons why they are losing patience. 

First of all, they are losing many lives on the battlefield (over 1000 Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have been killed) against IS because of a lack of sufficient military equipment as simple as body armor, helmets, and night vision, let alone heavy weapons they need to counterbalance the large number of heavy weaponry IS took (estimated at 1,700 pieces including tanks, Humvees, MRAPs, artillery, etc) from the three Iraqi army divisions that ran away in the face of an IS offensive in June last year. Not a single day of foggy weather passes easily in Kurdistan without thousands of families struggling to go to sleep because of fear of a possible large scale, surprise attack by IS who use suicide fighters with explosive vests, as well as car bombs which they have learned to armor in a way that only planes, or direct hits from a tank or other heavy weapons like anti-tank MILAN rocket systems, which Peshmerga forces received from Germany, could stop. Members of these families are on the frontline and when it is foggy enough to make IS movement invisible, the planes aren’t able to help, and the tanks and MILANs are few, and also face the same visibility issue in such weathers. The Peshmerga are left to a IS special combo of ferocious man-vehicle bombs who are only too eager to blow themselves, and their bomb-laden cars, up in the middle of a group of Kurdish fighters. Moreover, the US and coalition airstrikes will not be there forever, in which case IS has to be fought and defeated on the ground where heavy weapons are needed. 

Second, there’s a strong sense of betrayal among Kurds who never killed Americans, or ever think they will. Yet, the US heavily supports Baghdad where the Shiite dominated government – let alone the Shia militias the Iraqi government supports and arms – don’t like Americans very much, or maybe at all. Some Iraqi Shia officials have also gone so far as accusing the coalition forces of dropping weapons, ammo and military supplies to IS militants. 

And third, when the US spends billions of dollars training the Iraqi army, which has a bloody history in Kurdish memory no matter how hard Baghdad or Washington tries to paint a different picture, and when it tries very hard to keep Iraq united, it is only really frustrating at best – Kurds are fighting ISIS on a nearly 1000 km long frontline and received only 25 MRAPs from the US (of course apart from light weapons and ammo), and insulting at worst, especially to the countless Kurdish families whose loved ones died fighting for independence over the past decades against the Iraqi Army and successive Iraqi governments. So, many Kurds could now ask: Did we fight Iraq for over half a century only to see that our dream of independence, which never before has seemed so within reach, is being rolled back by the US when even some high profile Iraqi leaders, one way or another, have come to terms with the idea? 

Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder al-Abbadi reportedly said at the Munich Security Conference recently held in Germany that he believed it was up to the Kurds to choose whether or not to stay as part of Iraq. And an Iraqi lawmaker, Mishaan Jubouri, a Sunni who is known for his anti-Kurd comments, told NRT TV – a Kurdish news channel – that he supports Kurdish independence, although he supports a Kurdish state that does not include the oil-rich Kirkuk province, and that his support for a Kurdish state is rooted in his beliefs that Kurds are like cancer in Iraq, that they are working on “weakening Iraq” so they get stronger and that Iraq will only rest when Kurds are no longer part of. Also, Iraqi lawmaker Abdulsalam al-Maliki, a Shia from the former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s party, also known for their anti-Kurds comments, recently called on Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan regional Government (KRG) to hold a referendum to secede from Iraq and “drop their Iraqi citizenship.” Similarly of course, al-Maliki sees the Kurds as a kind of cancer in Iraq and that Iraq can only enjoy peace when Kurds separate. And Ayad Allawi, a secular Shia leader who won the most seats in the parliamentary elections 9 years ago beating Nouri al-Maliki before Maliki forged an alliance in the parliament to claim the largest bloc, is well known for his position regarding a Kurdish state which can be put simply like this: In principle, I support a Kurdish state. Kurds deserve to have their own state; my only concern is that it is not the right time now. All of these voices stand in stark contrast with the nationalist Arab rhetoric of, say, a few decades ago, or even with that of the early years after the US war in Iraq in 2003 when speaking on not only Kurdish independence, but also of a more decentralized Iraq, was a taboo among Sunni and Shia Arab politicians alike. 

Besides, the more the US – or any other nation – pushes on Kurds to disown aspirations for independence, the more attractive the idea becomes. Successive Iraqi governments used all types of intimidation from revoking their Iraqi citizenship, expelling, forced resettlement (also true in the case of Syrian Kurds) to clamping down on them militarily, and using chemical weapons against them. Only a total genocide could remove the Kurdish dream of independence altogether. That’s exactly the kind of realization former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein must have had when he ordered the Anfal Operations – a series of military operations that killed as many as 182,000 Kurds, flattened some 4,000 villages, and forced rural populations into urban settlements to control them, but to no avail. 

It is simple. You can’t impose on Kurds (or almost any people) what they don’t want, and history supports this claim. Kurds are known for their stubbornness, and perhaps it is only this stubbornness that has kept the people as distinct from other neighboring peoples as they can be despite decades of harsh assimilation policies by the Middle Eastern countries. The word “stubborn” in Kurdish is a compound word that, when translated word for word, becomes “hard-skulled” in English. Iraqi Arabs have jokes and sayings about this stubbornness of Kurds. And internally, Kurds have different jokes about the degree of “hard-skulledness” of Kurds from different tribes and areas. One joke is roughly as follows: A man was hammering a nail on a wall as hard as he could, but the nail wouldn’t make a dent. When he looked at the other side of the wall, a Khoshnaw (member of a Kurdish tribe of the same name) was leaning against the wall with his head right against the opposite side of where the man was trying to hammer the nail. The lesson: you cannot penetrate Kurdish skulls (i.e. mentality) the hammering (forceful) way, at least not with the dream of independence. 

More important than US officials realizing that when Kurds talk about independence there’s nothing that can dissuade them to keep Iraq together, is realizing that the US should not worry about the outcome of arming the Kurds. Because, the weapons will never be used against the US and American people unlike what has happened in other places where the US supported certain groups with weapons: for example in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq’s non-Kurdish parts (a lot of the weapons given to Iraq end up in pro-Iranian Shia militia hands who see no difference between the US and IS – remember the comment by Iraqi MPs that US drops weapons for IS). Also, it would be false to say that in the event of an emerging Kurdish state – that the US “carved out” a Kurdish state from Arab, Turkish, or Persian lands, like the WWII superpowers are accused of “creating” a country for Jews. Unlike the case of Israel, there’s a whole century of armed struggle behind today’s Kurdish aspirations for independence. And what lands Kurds claim are actually overwhelmingly Kurdish-populated lands in addition to some disputed land still with a majority Kurdish population that underwent an Arabization policy under Saddam Hussein, especially around the oil-rich Kirkuk province, plus more and more Iraqi leaders are beginning to realize that they cannot, and should not oppose Kurdish independence. Today or tomorrow, the Kurds will always be pushing for independence. Therefore the US should not treat Kurdish concerns the hammering way.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kurdish Peshmarga's death toll hits 999 since ISIS began offensive on Kurdistan last year

Erbil - The number of Kurdish Peshmarga fighters who were killed in battles with the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, or ISIL) has hit 999 with another 4596 injured in the fighting that started in August last year.

Jabar Yawar, spokesman for the KRG Ministry of Peshmarga disclosed the number in a press conference on Wednesday following a brutal ISIS attack on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in an attempt to grab more land and to deal a quick blow to the Peshmarga forces to repair its image as the "unstoppable" jihadi force. ISIS had been losing ground on several fronts in Iraq including around their stronghold of Mosul, Kirkuk, Diyala province as well as Anbar.

It is not clear how many ISIS militants have been killed by the Peshmarga forces, because they never report on the number of their dead fighters and most of the time they do not leave behind bodies if they can recover them before pulling back. Massoud Barzanin, President of Kurdistan Region has said recently that "no less than 3000" have been killed by Peshmarga.

ISIS captured territories in Iraq's mainly Sunni Arab populated areas in a lightening fast offensive in June last year after three divisions of the Iraqi Army ran away in the face of the extremist group leaving heavy weaponry in the hands of the extremist group.

At first, the group did not appear to be interested in attacking Kurdistan, and Kurdish officials did not want to engage ISIS in the Arab populated areas for fear of igniting an ethnic conflict between Arabs and Kurds. The Sunni Arab population had long been complaining of marginalization by the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, therefore many Sunnis welcomed ISIS, or did not resist when the Army fled.

However, Kurdish Peshmarga forces, who were now filling the gap created by the absence of the Iraqi Army in contested areas between Baghdad and Erbil that Kurds claim to be historically part of Kurdistan and has a mixed population of Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Christians and other minority groups. ISIS began its surprise attack with the newly captured heavy weapons and armored vehicles in August pushing deep  into Kurdish territories taking key towns like Sinjar, Zummar, makhmour, Gwer (only 25 km from capital Erbil), and dozens of villages.

The Peshmarga fought, as it seemed, a helpless war because what they had was old Russian made AK-47s, BKC machine guns, anti-aircraft machine guns, and RPG rocket propellers which proved ineffective against the armored US-made Humvees and MRAPs and long range artillery, howitzer and mortars. So, they pulled back in what they described tactical retreats to avoid heavy casualties.

On August 8 American warplanes began bombing ISIS destroying their armored vehicles and artillery positions. With that, Kurdish forces started to reorganize and put up a better fight as the air support boosted morale.

Kurdish forces have been making gains against ISIS ever since, especially after they received MILAN anti-tank weapons from Germany. The weapons system has proved to be very effective against ISIS armored vehicles, and especially against ISIS suicide car bombs which they also armor so nothing can stop them.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Peshmarga who intercepted ISIS tanker bomb by ramming his tank into it

Erbil - When Islamic State (also know as ISIL and ISIS) forces send a huge, heavily armored tanker bomb with a suicide driver in it to break the lines of Peshmarga forces who can't seem to stop it despite hitting it with whatever weapons they have, what other choice is left for the crew of a Kurdish tank other than intercepting it by crashing into it?

This is the story of a brave group of three Peshmarga fighters - tank crew -, with a focus on the driver, who participated in the late January offensive on ISIS forces that resulted in the capture of some 600 square kilometers with over 200 ISIS militants around Mosul dam. In the two day battle, ISIS sent some 14 car bombs with suicide drivers behind the wheels. They have learned to armor their vehicles in a way that only direct hits from the heavy shells fired from a tank, or rockets fired from a warplane could destroy it. Or otherwise the anti-tank rocket propellers called MILAN of which Germany has delivered about a few dozens to the Peshmarga forces recently. Their tanker bombs are especially deadly as they load it with explosives and fill the tanker up with highly flammable fuel.

Jamal Mohammed, tank driver, on his tank on the battlefield. 
But sometimes the coalition warplanes, that have been effectively helping Kurdish forces on the ground to push back ISIS, are not there to help destroy those armored vehicle bombs. Bad weather, for example, is only one reason. And Kurds do not have a lot of tanks that can be deployed to many different fronts, besides, they are not accurate shooters especially for a moving object. And the MILANs are simply not enough for the 1000 plus kilometers of front-line between Peshmarga and ISIS in Iraq.

This is where the heroism of soldiers like Jamal Mohammed (tank driver), Mulazm Sarwan, and Aziz Ismael, the canon crew, comes into play to save the lives of some 200 brothers in arms.
An ISIS tanker bomb that has been armored
Peshmarga forces had dealt a heavy blow to ISIS in the large scale offensive on January 21 and 21, in the north west of Mosul city, the stronghold of ISIS in Iraq, where Jamal was deployed. They had just captured a village called Tal Khudr. "The Peshmarga fighters were taking a break to eat something in preparation of another offensive to capture more grounds" says Jamal in an interview with Xendan network - a Kurdish news and media outlet - "I was in the tank on the frontline. There was a hill lying ahead and we did not see what was behind."

All of a sudden, a tanker bomb appeared."

"As it approached, the Peshmarga fired on it with every weapon they had [Ak-47s, RPG rocket propellers, light and heavy anti-aircraft machine guns] but nothing affected it... The tank was not loaded at that moment, and it would have been too late before we could load it and fire. So, together with my two comrades we decided to intercept it with the tank before it reached the gathering of Peshmarga fighters"

The tank surviving the explosion
There were some 35 shells inside the tank. The explosion of which could tear not only human beings, but also the tank itself, into thousands of pieces. But Jamal and his crew had made their decision.
"The tanker bomb was coming down a narrow path. I turned the tank and headed straight at it. It did try to maneuver... but I was able to ram the tank into it, causing it to explode. Fire was all around me. I lowered and tried to cover my head when I realized my head was on fire...[moments later] I jumped out of the tank.. My friends were also safe, and the tank was still working... I thought to myself that may be ISIS will attack again, therefore I got into the tank again, turned it around and headed back to the line of Peshmarga forces."

Family of Jamal Anxious for his life

Jamal's family had been in contact with him via cellphone, but when the mobile ran out of battery, they worried. Mohammed Saleh, Jamal's half-paralyzed father, says what hurt him most was Jamal's two sons had heard some news that their father may have died in battle.

"They are little children, but they had felt something was going on. They came to me and asked 'Grandpa, is it true that Daesh (using the common Arabic acronym for ISIS) has beheaded dad?'" and that's when he says he couldn't hold it anymore and burst into tears.

The tank after the explosion of the tanker bomb
Ready for death

Asked if he felt any fear when he was driving fast at the tanker bomb in those tense seconds, his answer is an unwavering "no"

"I looked at the tank with a fixed gaze that I remember the details of it. It had a grey color, and so heavily armored that the entire windshield was covered. I saw only one person in it [the driver]. I said the Shahada [testimony of Islamic faith], I thought that was the end for me and my friends, that's why when I stood on my feet after the explosion, I could not believe I was still alive"

Many Westerners have condemned alongside ISIS, Muslims and Islam itself, while in the same breath praising Kurds for their fight against the extremists, not realizing - or perhaps forgetting - that Kurds are predominantly Muslims too. They say their testimony of Islamic faith every day, pray five times per day, fast a month in the year,  pay Zakat - form of tax but paid to the poor - and if can, also visit Mecca - the five pillars of Islam. But Kurds refuse the harsh brand of Islam the extremist group ISIS is desperately trying to impose on everybody; Muslims and non-Muslims alike. For centuries, Muslim Kurds have coexisted with followers of other faiths in this region; Christians, Shiites, Kakayis, Ezidis, and Zoroastrians. There were also many Jews in Kurdistan Region who lived peacefully with their Muslim Kurd neighbors before they were all expelled from Iraq by the Iraqi government in 1949, after Israel proclaimed a Jewish state in 1948. The Jewish neighborhood still stands as it was, in the middle of the capital of Kurdistan Region Erbil. 
Jamal at home with his head showing traces of burns.

Moreover, since ISIS pushed into Iraqi territories in June last year, Kurdistan Region - despite its issues with Baghdad resulting in depriving Kurdistan of its budget share since early 2014 - has sheltered some 1.5 million refugees and IDPs (internally displaced people) among them dozens of thousands of Christians who fled Mosul city, thousands of Ezidis, and hundreds of thousands of Arabs - the figure is roughly one fifth of Kurdistan's population. 

Ready to repeat what I did

Jamal ended up with burns to the head, a deaf ear caused by the sound of the explosion, and other injuries which were treated in Duhok hospital after he was transferred there. He is resting at home to recover. But he says he is ready to repeat what he did "tens of more times to stop ISIS advance... When ISIS wants to invade our land, take our honor, this calls for our resistance"

Jamal is not the only Peshmarga in his family. Five other brothers of Jamal are also Peshmarga and are on the frontlines.

"I am so proud of them" says Jamal's father. "My son has been able to save the lives of a group of Peshmarga"

Friday, January 30, 2015

ISIS launches large scale offensive on Peshmarga forces, mostly repelled

Erbil - Islamic State (IS) militants also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL launched a massive operation in the early hours of Friday morning taking advantage of foggy weather to push into the lines of the Kurdish Peshmarga forces on mainly all fronts stretching from Kirkuk province from the east to the Nineveh province in the west of Iraq, but were mostly repelled by the Peshmarga with dozens of ISIS militants dead and more injured.

  • 27 Peshmarga died in the fight, among them popular commander
  • Between 60-100 ISIS militants were killed and many more injured
  • ISIS used suicide car bombs and militants with explosive vests
  • Initially ISIS made advances, but were repelled later

Attacks in Kirkuk

It appeared that most of the attacks in Khazir and Makhmour areas, south west of the capital Erbil, were a decoy to distract the Peshmarga forces while they launched the most vicious offensive on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Initially, ISIS militants were able to advance and take several villages from the Peshmarga including Maryam Beg, Mala Abdullah, Nahrawan, Maktab Khaled and Talward.

Then ISIS suicide militants that appeared to have either infiltrated into Kirkuk, or been ISIS sleeper cells in the city, blew up a car bomb at the entrance of a multi-storey, large building that is close to other security facilities, followed by 3-4 militants with explosive vests storming the building. Shortly afterwards the Kurdish security forces in the city claimed retaking the building after raiding it, killing all the militants inside, with one of them blowing himself up.

Video footage on Rudaw TV showed local civilian Kurds taking up arms to join the fight when they heard the explosion and gunfire. Moments later Kurdish security men appeared on top of the building firing celebratory gunshots into the air for clearing the building. Six security personnel were injured in the fight.
The building shows a lot of smoke after one suicide bomber blew himself up inside when security forces raided the building. Civilians appear in the footage who took up arms after they heard gunfire. Also Kurdish security forces appear on top of the building after clearing it.

Around Kirkuk where the fog had disappeared and it was clear daylight now, Kurdish Peshmarga forces aided by an Iraqi army brigade made up of Kurds went on the offensive to recapture most of the areas ISIS had taken. Reports said only Mala Abdullah village was still under ISIS control and fighting was still going on. Video footage and photos showed what appeared to be a pile of bodies of ISIS militants killed in the counteroffensive.

A security source said the mastermind and commander of today's attacks on Kirkuk was a man called Abu Hassan Turki who was killed in the counterattacks on ISIS.

There were different reports about the casualties in the ranks of ISIS with some putting the number of militants killed at 60 and around 80 more being wounded. What appeared in a video footage by Gali Kurdistan TV of the battlefields around one village showed about a couple dozen. The death of at least 17 Peshmarga personnel has also been confirmed with some 160 others wounded. One of the fallen Peshmarga was the beloved commander Sherko Fateh Shwani.

Separately, seven Peshmarga were killed near Jalawla in Diyala province when a militant blew his car bomb up.

Video: bodies of some of the ISIS militants killed in Maryam Beg village. One of the Peshmarga fighters says 11 of the dead Chechen fighters [Peshmarga fighters refer to Caucasian fighters as Chechen].

Sherko Fateh Shwani before he was killed by ISIS mortar fire said he would never allow ISIS to get near Kirkuk even if it means laying down his life. 

Courtesy of Wishe Newspaper 

Courtesy of Wishe Newspaper
Courtesy of Wishe Newspaper

Attacks in Erbil
In Erbil's southern Makhmour town, and Khazir area to the west, ISIS attacked Peshmarga positions simultaneously but were soon repelled. The militants did not make any advance here as they appeared to be smaller in number and served as a decoy for the ultimate trophy: Kirkuk.

Four Peshmarga were killed in the attack and 10 others were wounded.  The bodies of at least 3 militants were recovered by the Peshmarga although officials say more were killed by the Kurdish fighters.

ISIS militants killed during their attack on the Peshmarga positions in Makhmour town. 

ISIS attack in Mosul

Similarly, ISIS launched an offensive on the Peshmarga forces to the west of Mosul around Aski Mosul, which is a strategic point that connects Mosul to other towns like Talafar and Shingal (Sinjar), but were repelled by the Kurdish fighters. Again, there were different reports about ISIS casualties with one source putting the number at 17 dead and one suicide car bomb also being taken out before it rammed into the ranks of Peshmarga fighters. Another source said around 40 ISIS militants were killed and many more were injured. No Peshmarga casualties were reported in this area.

In most of the attacks ISIS used car bombs and suicide fighters with explosive belts to penetrate the Kurdish lines, according  to the reports.

Today's attacks appear to have come as retaliation for the heavy losses the group had to take in western Mosul after Peshmarga forces killed about 200 ISIS militants and captured a 600 square kilometer area on January 21-22, getting so close to Mosul that they were able to fire grad missiles at ISIS positions inside Mosul city causing panic in their ranks. Perhaps that's why they released a video showing the beheading of a Kuridsh Peshmarga prisoner after delivering threatening messages to US president Barack Obama, France, Belgium and Massoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan Region.

And, they seem desperate for a some victory that retains their image as an unstoppable force, an image they have been actively using as a recruitment tool.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Release of pro-Jihadi Kurdish Cleric by Norway elicits mixed reactions in Kurdistan

Erbil – On January 25th, Mala Krekar or Najmaddin Faraj if we go by his real name, a former Islamist-Jihadi from Kurdistan whose group of fighters was in a bloody conflict with the more secular groups before he fled to Norway in early 2000s, was released by Norwegian authorities after completing a 34 month jail term.

The news of Krekar's release traveled fast back to Kurdistan and with it came a whirlwind of mixed reactions from the different political parties of the region: both joyful and threatening ones.

The welcome-home kind of reactions

Islamic groups were quick to welcome the news including the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) which is known as a peaceful, anti-violence Islamic party in Kurdistan, Komal (or the Islamic Group) another Islamic group that is seen a degree less moderate than the former, but still a civilian group taking part in the political game in Kurdistan, and the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) which is the most conservative of all the Islamic parties in the region and is also like the mother group among whose ranks Mr. Krekar was an active leader before the group broke up after which he established his own called Ansarul Islam. 

The KIU‘s Politburo member Omar Mohammed said: “We hope that he benefited from his imprisonment, that he looks at it as a life experience, so he can better serve" it is not clear what he meant by "better serve" or whom and what to serve as most of the time Krekar was the IMK, or when he had his own group, he was in conflict with the Kurdish parties militarily. 

He continued, “His fault was that the way he thought and preached was to a great extent harsh, especially when he was with Ansarul Islam. We hope that Mamosta [in reference to Krekar, the word in Kurdish means teacher, but is used for a spiritual leader, a religious leader, or any person of great abilities, a master] can use his abilities in literature, rhetoric and influencing [others] to better serve.”

IMK said Krekar was a fellow citizen and had the right to return to Kurdistan. Abdullah Warty, a member of the IMK leadership said “a new page should be opened with people like him.”

Komal was probably the happiest of all the Islamic groups with Mohammed Hakeem, Komal spokesman, saying “in case he returns [to Kurdistan] and decides to work in our ranks, we will be happy to accept him.” Komal was also an armed group once that was established after the break-up of IMK. Their militants were subjected to disarmament after the 2003 war on Iraq with US warplanes and rockets destroying their bases in Sulaymaniyah province. They are now engaged in the political process in Kurdistan with a minister in the KRG cabinet.

You-filthy-terrorist kind of voices

The most vehemently opposing faction on the ground is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a secular social democrat party whose Peshmarga militia was in a bloody conflict with Mala Krekar’s group before he fled the country to Norway in 2002.

Ata Sarawi a leader with PUK, and brother of one of the Peshmargas killed by Ansarul Islam militants when they were at war with the PUK, said “No party should dare welcome him back. We are going to treat him like a Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIS or ISIL, which is now known as Islamic State or IS). We will not be silent, neither as PUK, nor as the families of the Kheli Hama martyrs, about anyone who brings a man killer into this country” referring to the death of 43 PUK Peshmargas in one surprise attack by Ansarul Islam in 2001. The men were brutally killed with many of them by beheading. Later PUK said the bodies of most of the fallen Peshmargas were also disfigured by Ansarul Islam.

Sarawi said all of the families of the Kheli Hama massacre were ready to file lawsuits against Krekar as soon as he sets foot on Kurdish ground. 

Another PUK official, Lateef Sheikh Omar, says “If Mala Krekar, or anybody else, is involved in a lawsuit, they will have to be immediately handed over to the security forces and sent to court... The court will decide, with political consensus. It is not up to anybody, or and party, to grant him forgiveness. This is PUK’s principle”

So is he a dangerous man to return to Kurdistan?

Well, you should first read something about the latest developments in Kurdistan. Calm and prosperity was disrupted in August last year when ISIS militants turned their barrels on Kurdistan following a lightning fast land grab in the northern and western parts of Iraq’s mainly Sunni populated areas. 

Since then, over 800 Kurdish soldiers have died in the battle pushing back ISIS from the territories they took in the first attack. In the ranks of the ISIS fighters were hundreds of foreigners lured by Jihadi ideology, but also around a couple hundred Kurds from Kurdistan Region itself. This group of young Islamists were radicalized either in mosques by hard-line preachers (and patterns show they mainly came from areas where Krekar had influence before going to Norway), or online. Now the security forces claim that the number of Jihadists from Kurdistan who joined ISIS could be a lot higher. And in the latest video released by ISIS, a Kurdish-speaking fighter dressed in Kurdish clothes beheaded a captured Peshmarga fighter after he delivered threatening messages to US President Barack Obama, France, Belgium, as well as the Kurdish President Massoud Barzani.

Now, ISIS may not be that big a threat to Kurdistan as it appeared to be last year. Peshmarga forces are gaining ground against the Jihadists ever since the US-coalition airplanes started bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Last week Peshmarga forces pushed deep into ISIS held territories recapturing some 600 square kilometers in an operation west of Mosul (the ISIS stronghold in Iraq) in which ISIS sent about 14 suicide car bombers to break the lines of the Kurdish solders all of which were taken out either by the coalition warplanes or the Peshmarga who used their newly received MILAN anti-tank rockets from Germany with brutal effectiveness. Officials said over 200 ISIS militants had been killed in the operation, and they said that they were so close to Mosul now that they could shell the center of Mosul with artillery fire - and had actually done so to destroy ISIS positions before Barzani ordered the Peshmarga to stop shelling ISIS positions in Mosul for fear of civilian casualties and that ISIS could use that as a propaganda tool arguing Peshmarga are targeting civilian populations, attracting more recruits from the city.

In this video, Kurdish Peshmarga Forces blow up ISIS suicide bombers, and destroy ISIS armored vehicles with their new anti-tank weapons. 

The real deal is that there are hundreds of Kurdish militants in the ranks of ISIS, and there may be hundreds more inside Kurdistan Region who all look up to Mala Krekar, and his return to Kurdistan in addition to some influential Jihadi speeches, could encourage many pro-Jihadi young men, and awaken a sleeping generation of Jihadi-minded fellas inside Kurdistan. 

According to Kurdish media outlets, ISIS had posted a message on social media pages "welcoming back Mala Krekar" but refrained from commenting on what the group thought about Krekar before he opens his mouth. "We are not going to say anything before he speaks and we find out what he thinks about the Caliphate and the US-Peshmarga alliance"

Mala Krekar is known to have said he is against the idea of young Kurds joining the war in Syria to wage Jihad. "It is better for them to stay in Kurdistan and learn Islamic sciences" his brother once quoted him as saying. He has also claimed that Krekar supports the creation of a Kurdish state. 

As for the question: Is he going to return to Kurdistan or stay in Norway? it is not clear what his plans are yet.