A press conference of Arif Taifur, commander of the Peshmerga forces on the Khazir front on the two-day operations against Islamic State (ISIS) militants. Photo from Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - In a massive two-day assault on Islamic State (ISIS) militants on the Khazir front, southeast of Mosul, 140 extremists were killed and nine villages were liberated, while four Peshmerga were killed and 34 others wounded, said the Peshmerga commander of the Khazir front.
"The number of ISIS slain is estimated at 140 militants and their corpses are in our hands in the villages. Many of them were killed by warplanes [from the US-led coalition]," Arif Taifur, commander of the Peshmerga forces on the Khazir front, told Rudaw at a press conference after the operation ended today.
Taifur also revealed that "unfortunately, four Peshmerga were martyred and 34 others wounded."
Taifur also added that "territories reclaimed by the Peshmerga contain nine villages including Mufti, Big Zarakhatun, Small Zarakhatun, Tullaban, Wardak, Gazakan, Big Tal Aswad, Chamakor and Kalabor."
The liberated villages are predominantly Kurdish minority Kakeis and Shabaks and many of the houses were leveled to the ground. The villages were empty as residents abandoned their homes when ISIS first swept into the area.
"Area retaken from ISIS belongs to the [Kurdish] Kakei and Shabak," he said. "It was very important to recapture them so that the refugees can return to their lands."
Overall "the Peshmerga managed to reclaim territory 23 kilometers in length and 5 to 6 kilometers in width."
Commenting on the important role US-led coalition warplanes played, the commander said that through their air raids and military personnel on the ground, they played an influential role in the Peshmerga victories over ISIS.
He also explained that "more than 15 car bombs rigged with explosives had been prepared to target the Peshmerga; a number of them were detonated by the warplanes and others were exploded at the hands of the Peshmerga."
Some 5,500 Peshmerga and Zeravani Special Forces launched a major pre-dawn offensive Sunday, aiming to liberate 10 villages from the Islamic State (ISIS) group and moving a step closer to an anticipated joint offensive on Mosul.
The 4am offensive began with Kurdish forces on eastern and western fronts, advancing toward a clutch of abandoned villages belonging to the Kakei and Shabak Kurdish minorities.
Among the ultimate goals of the operation was not only the liberation of the villages in the area, but also removal of ISIS threats on Erbil, keeping the extremist group at bay and extending the Kurdish front-line closer to Mosul, the ISIS stronghold in Iraq.
The liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city and the ISIS stronghold in the country, has been in the making for months. Iraqi forces and its allied militias, the Peshmerga and US-led coalition forces, have been coordinating an anticipated offensive.