Wednesday 23 May 2018

Isil takes advantage of turmoil to attack villages

Kurdish female fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces celebrate in Raqa after retaking the city from Isil fighters. Photo: Getty Images
Kurdish female fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces celebrate in Raqa after retaking the city from Isil fighters. Photo: Getty Images

Josie Ensor

ISIL jihadists attacked villages south of the city of Kirkuk yesterday, exploiting the growing crisis between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the area.

Three villages near the town of Daquq were briefly captured by Isil in a nighttime assault on Wednesday.

The region had until recently been controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, but they were driven out earlier this week by Iraqi forces looking to claim zones disputed with the Kurds after they voted last month to secede.

Isil had been mostly driven out of the province after an Iraqi army offensive in the major city of Hawija saw more than a thousand of its militants surrender.

But the current chaotic security situation has given Isil room to manoeuvre.

The US and its coalition partners had warned Kurdistan's President Masoud Barzani against holding the referendum, saying that pursuing independence would undermine the war Iraq was still fighting against Isil.

Washington has stressed it would like its allies in Iraq to work together against the militant group, and warned it may consider halting its massive train-and-equip programme for Iraqi forces if they continued their offensive against the Kurds.

"I believe Baghdad thinks it's more important to move on the Kurds than to deal with remaining pockets of Isil in Iraq," said Michael Pregent, a former US intelligence officer now with the Hudson Institute think-tank, told the Telegraph. "I don't think it cares if Isil pops up here and there as long as it doesn't threaten non-Kurdish areas."

Iraqi and Kurdish forces have slowly retaken territory from Isil over the past three years.

In July, they retook Mosul and effectively shattered its self-declared territorial caliphate.

Despite the losses, however Isil continues to carry out attacks in Iraq. Last month, an attack claimed by Isil at a checkpoint and restaurant in southern Iraq left more than 80 killed and 93 wounded.

With relations continuing to deteriorate, a Baghdad court yesterday issued an arrest warrant for the vice president of Iraqi Kurdistan on charges of "provocation" against Iraq's armed forces.

Kosrat Rasul had referred to the Iraqi army and federal police as "occupation forces", the court said.

In the statement, Mr Rasul, who is also vice president of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two main Kurdish parties, criticised his own group for not having resisted the entry of Iraqi federal forces into the disputed northern city of Kirkuk on Monday.

The judiciary in the Iraqi capital last week also ordered the arrest of three senior Kurdish officials responsible for organising a September 25 independence referendum that went ahead in defiance of Baghdad.

Irish Independent

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