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. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Video of Peshmarga forces taking out ISIS suicide car bombs

Erbil - A new video released yesterday by Kurdistan Region's Ministry of Peshmarga shows how Kurdish Peshmarga forces take out Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) suicide car bombs.

Kurdish forces launched a major offensive on January 21-22 west of  ISIS stronghold of Mosul, inflicting the heaviest defeat on the group since they took territories in Iraq and pushed deep into Kurdish territories last year.

Kurdish forces said they had retaken some 600 square kilometers which included two townships and a handful villages. Fighting continued into Friday. Most important of all is the capture of an area that looks on the road which links Mosul to Talafar (a major town and ISIS stronghold), Shingal (also know as Sinjar) and Syria, cutting off route for resupply.

The release of the video is the second of its kind that directly show ISIS elements destroyed by Peshmarga. Another was released earlier this month by Kurdistan TV that showed how the Kurdish forces chased and killed ISIS militants in a retaliatory operation following the ISIS surprise attack on the town of Gwer where 24 Kurdish soldiers died.

In this video, Peshmarga forces appear to have armored US made Humvees they either acquired when the Iraqi Army fled Mosul, or captured from ISIS. They also have some tanks - at least two tanks that appear to be Russian made T-55s appear in the video.

Peshmarga officials said the bodies of at least 200 ISIS militants were found on the battlefields. They also said ISIS sent 14 suicide car bombs to break into the lines of the Peshmarga forces of which 3 were destroyed by the coalition planes and the rest taken out by the Peshmarga forces who now use their newly received anti-tank weapons with brutal effectiveness.

In the video, at least 3 suicide car bombs trying to ram into the ranks of the Peshmarga forces are blown up by the Peshmarga with German made MILAN anti-tanks.

One armored vehicle that advances on Peshmarga forces is struck with two rockets. Two militants are seen abandoning their vehicle, trying to escape. Then, another armored vehicle approaches to help the two militants but the Peshmarga blow it up with a MILAN rocket.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What takes my time

It has been quite a while since I last posted an article on this blog. I am in love with this blog, because it is the first I started, it archives my works, and has a good readership throughout the world, and finally it helps me keep busy.

But there's been a lot going on lately which kept me away for quite some time. First of all, I quit my job as a journalist. Second, I went to the US for my graduate studies in English and Communication. Third, I have been working an average of 10 hours per day since I returned from the US early 2014, and more recently I have involved in literary writing more than commentary and analysis. I am currently working on a book. Creative nonfiction, also I am working on another blog trying to introduce Kurdish literature to the world. my new blog is

but that does not mean I am quitting this blog. I want to keep working on this blog, I just need some time to take care of some other distractions and come back with a clear mind. meanwhile, if you have any appetite for learning about Kurdish literature, you can follow me on my new blog which I have just started.