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.