Peshmerga tanks heading for the frontlines. Photo: kdp.info
SHANGAL – Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched fierce offensives against the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) army in Shangal and Zumar in Nineveh province on Sunday, after the towns fell to the jihadi fighters in overnight fighting.
Intense battles were reported in Shangal where the Kurdish forces launched a four-pronged attack against the militants, with fears for the town’s majority Yezidi population who are considered infidels by the religious zealots.
Residents inside Shangal told Rudaw that two municipality employees were executed by the militants, who have taken several civilians hostage -- among them underage residents – with fears they will also be killed.
Scores of Peshmerga forces were rushed into battle, and more reinforcements were reported on the way, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) defense ministry.
The fighting escalated as new advanced weapons arrived at Erbil airport on Sunday, with Peshmerga officials saying they were awaiting orders to change their defensive tactics and go on the offensive against the IS.
In an important development not verified by the KRG, the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) said its forces have arrived at the site to aid the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmergas in their fight.
Fazil Mirani, a Zumar native and strongman of the Kurdistan Region’s dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), was deployed to the area to coordinate the counterattacks on IS militants, who captured the strategic city of Mosul in a surprise attack in June.
Yezidi residents of the area held a meeting on Sunday – the third in two days – to organize a defense of their town, said Said Misto, a prominent local figure among the Yezidi community.
“Most of the youngsters here are ready to go to the frontline and take on ISIS,” Misto said.
Rudaw has learned that the neighboring areas around Shangal became frontlines against the IS, as the local population battled the militants during the night.
Eyewitnesses said that fierce clashes took place between local gunmen and the assaulting militant Islamists who eventually captured the area as the locals fled to the safety of surrounding mountains.
The Yezidis, who are Kurds by ethnicity, have long been a target of car bombs and attacks from militant groups because of their different religious beliefs.