Iraqi Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary forces fortify their positions near the Yezidi village of Kocho. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - State-backed Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary launched a fresh military campaign named “Shingal Martyr’s” that retook a number villages in the Shingal region on Thursday including the Yezidi’s Kocho, the symbol of ISIS atrocities.
The operation aims to control western Nineveh contested areas like Qairawan and Baaj and eventually reach Syria’s border, said Abu Mahdi Mundis, the deputy head of the Hashd al-Shaabi Board in a statement. He added that a number of villages were retaken and some areas have already been besieged.
It’s the second phase of the wide-scale operation of “Muhammed Rasululla” to retake remaining areas from ISIS militants in the Shingal region.
The statement added the advancing Shiite fighters were able to control Imyihat village in western Qairawan, besiege Maliha village and cut off the Hatamiya-Kocho road in northern Qairawan which they described as an important supply line to ISIS militants.
It added that the ISIS-held villages of Arfia in northern Qubba Wahbi and northwest Baaj were reclaimed, and now Hashd has reached Domez complex and cut the main Shingal-Baaj road.
Since the launch of the fresh campaign, ISIS has suffered material damages as a number of car bombs were destroyed in Hatamiya village, Rudaw's Ayub Nasri reported. Iraqi fighter jets also reportedly destroyed three car bombs in Kocho village.
Earlier this week the Hashd declared it had brought under control nearby Qairawan, two weeks after the start of its operations.
The bulk of the villages in Qairawan town now have been controlled by the Hashd forces, Nasri added on Thursday.
There are 13 villages and complexes in Qairawan town in the Shingal region. The area falls under the disputed zones claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad and subject to Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. The center of Qairawan town is inhabited by Arabs, but the surrounding complexes and villages including Tal Banat, Tal Qasab, Kocho and Gir Azer are mostly Yezidi.
Kocho, the hometown of ISIS survivor and UN Goodwill Ambassador Nadia Murad, is the symbol of ISIS atrocities against Yezidi people. It is 18 kilometers south of Shingal town. Some 4,000 Yezidis used to inhabit it.
When ISIS militants attacked Shingal and its surroundings in August 2014, they arrested thousands of Yezidis, many from the village of Kocho. Some of them were killed collectively in the village and the fates of the rest are unclear to date.
The Hashd aims to control all of them, something Kurdish leaders, most notably President Masoud Barzani, has opposed.