A Peshmerga truck gunner fires rounds at ISIS fighters during Wednesday mass assault across southern Kirkuk province. Photo: Rudaw.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Kurdish forces launched a massive early Wednesday assault on Islamic State-held villages in southern Kirkuk province with Peshmerga leaders saying the campaign will last until ISIS is gone.
With reports still coming in from the front, Rudaw’s Hiwa Hisamadin estimated that 18 ISIS fighters had been killed and a number of villages recaptured in Daquq district less than 40km south of Kirkuk city.
Brigadier Sarhad Qadir, chief of Kirkuk province’s suburban police, said five villages in Daquq have been liberated.
“Coalition warplanes carried out an intense bombardment of the village of Yangija, killing many militants. No casualty figure is known yet because of the rubble of the homes in the village,” Hisamdain said from the scene.
Rudaw’s reporter added that the heaviest fighting was for a string of villages in Daquq and Khurmatu districts with fighting still underway in some places.
"Despite the recapture of the villages of Zargata and Albu Najim, 12 villages in Khurmatu and 10 villages in Daquq have been corroded off by the Peshmerga since the dawn," said Hismadin.
Ahmed Beshai, a Peshmerga commander, told Rudaw reporter Kurdish forces had pushed ISIS back at least 10km.
“The ISIS militants are on the retreat but they have planted many landmines and that is why we are slowly advancing," Beshai said.
"US-led coalition warplanes have done their part too, bombing their facilities and militants," he added.
Rudaw’s Hismadin said Kurdish reinforcements streamed in once the Peshmerga’s heavy fighting began. He added that members of the Kurdistan regional parliament and many volunteers were also on hand.
“We will not stop until we push out ISIS,” Jaafar Mustafa, commander of the 70th Peshmerga Forces, told Rudaw.
Qadir said the Shiite militia movement known as Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) was also engaged in the fierce fighting with ISIS near Kirkuk on Wednesday.
“The Islamic State jihadists launched an attack on a military base that is owned by the Hashd al-Shaabi in Bashir village in Kirkuk, which resulted in the killing of five fighters of the Shiite militia,” he said.