Kurdish Peshmerga prepare to seize Bashiqa

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Kurdish forces of the Peshmerga. File photo

ARA News

Bashiqa – Thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers are preparing for a major military operation, which aims to take Bashiqa District from the Islamic State (ISIS).

The Peshmerga commander of the Bashiqa operation, General Bahram Ali Siyasi, told ARA News on Tuesday that thousands of Kurdish soldiers would soon advance west, seizing the whole district. The commander added that he expected ISIS to put up some resistance in the coming battle.

More than 30,000 civilians used to inhabit the town of Bashiqa, including Christians, Arabs, Kurds and Shiites. After the Islamic State’s invasion in August 2014, most of the inhabitants fled to the Kurdistan region. 

Nevertheless, in the villages around Bashiqa town, there are still some civilians stranded between the frontlines. ISIS jihadists have reportedly massacred civilians who tried to flee into Peshmerga-controlled territory. 

“The social coexistence in Bashiqa still exists in Kurdistan, and after Bashiqa is liberated the people can return to their homes and the process of democracy will continue,” Siyasi told ARA News.

Bigger than Khazir

ISIS militants have had over two years to prepare for the looming operation. They have reportedly used that time to lay hundreds of mines and construct underground bunkers. 

For the last several months, ISIS militants have been firing artillery on Kurdish positions near Bashiqa Mountain. Understandably, the Peshmerga ARA News spoke to were eager to take the fight to ISIS.

“This operation will be bigger than that of Khazir. While in Khazir there were around 10 villages, here there are more than 20 villages,” Siyasi said. “This operation will have more ground and more has to be captured.”

The commander denied that Turkey-trained Sunni Arab forces or the Turkish Army itself would participate in the operation. “There is no role for Turkey in Bashiqa, but the [Turkey-backed] Hashd al-Watani will take part in the operation of Mosul,” he said.

Improved Cooperation and Capabilities

According to General Siyasi, there has been a marked change in fighting ability of the combatants. The commander told ARA News that there is now a high-level of coordination between the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Iraqi Army and the US-led coalition.

“The morale of ISIS is gone; they have become very weak. Whereas the Peshmerga’s morale is high and their capabilities have improved, and the coalition has stepped up its support,” he said.

Moreover, Siyasi said that the Iraqi Army has markedly improved since June 2014 when its officers fled from Mosul city. “They have liberated Ramadi, Tikrit, Fallujah and Shirt. They have improved a lot and will be able to destroy the terrorists,” he said.

The Peshmerga General said Iraqi and Kurdish forces might reach the Mosul’s city gates within a few weeks. However, the Peshmerga forces would most likely stay on the outskirts of Mosul as part of an agreement with Baghdad while Iraqi forces take the lead. Siyasi concluded his remarks, saying: “If they need us, we will enter the city.”

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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