Rudaw file photo of Peshmerga forces south of Kirkuk.
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish Peshmerga forces re-launched offensives against Islamic State (ISIS) militants in oil-rich Kirkuk on Friday, capturing villages that fleeing fighters abandoned with little or no resistance.
ISIS abandoned the village of Morara and Peshmerga forces were in hot pursuit to capture the militants, said a Rudaw reporter on the scene. The reporter said the Peshmerga continued their advance after liberating the village of Nauaflish.
Pushing through with their offensive, the Peshmerga recaptured three 10 villages and three installations later Friday.
“The complexes of Qadisia, Yarmook and Shahid, along with 10 villages, are now under the control of the Peshmerga,” said Brig. Sarhad Qadir, chief of Kirkuk’s suburban police.
“Tens of ISIS militants have been killed in today’s operations and several military vehicles were also destroyed,” he added.
“The Peshmerga continue to advance with the aim of liberating other areas under ISIS control,” he said, adding that the Kurdish forces were being welcomed with applause from locals in the liberated areas.
“As usual, coalition warplanes were ready but they did not bomb, and until now ISIS has not repulsed our advances effectively. We believe we will need air support in the coming attacks on ISIS bases,” he said.
Under the leadership of Kosrat Rasul, vice-president of the Kurdistan Region and deputy commander of the Peshmerga, Kurdish forces launched a large-scale military operation to further push back ISIS and eliminate threats on the city of Kirkuk and its oilfields.
Several strategic areas have been retaken in southern and eastern Kirkuk, with the aim of evicting ISIS from all parts of the province.
Coalition forces that have been giving air support to the Peshmerga in the fight against ISIS said Wednesday that the Kurds cleared a key ridgeline earlier this week and pushed ISIS – which is also known as ISIL -- away from strategic oilfields in Kirkuk.
“The Peshmerga forces overcame ISIL resistance in this section of Iraq and denied the terrorist group its freedom of maneuver in the area,” the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) said in a statement.
“The March 9 operation also pushed ISIL further away from the Kirkuk oilfields,” it added.
Kirkuk, regarded by Iraq’s Kurds as the capital of a future independent homeland, holds vast oil reserves. By some estimates, it floats on a whopping four percent of global reserves.
“This operation is another step on the path to ultimately defeating Daesh (the Arabic acronym for ISIS). It clearly demonstrates the ability of Peshmerga forces to degrade Daesh influence in Northern Iraq,” Army Lt. Gen. James L. Terry, commander of CJTF-OIR was quoted as saying.