Members of the Kurdish peshmerga forces walk in Sinjar. File photo: Ari Jalal/Reuters
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ERBIL – Peshmerga army of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq is preparing an extended military campaign against militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces, supported by the US.-led coalition’s air campaign, are expected to storm ISIS major headquarters in northern Iraq.
For the first time, an Iraqi Turkmen militia announced its readiness to join the Peshmerga in the war on ISIS in Kirkuk province.
Najat Hussein, member of Kirkuk Provincial Council, said on Sunday that the Turkmen Popular Mobilization Forces intend to join the Peshmerga-led operations against ISIS south of the province.
“The Turkmen Popular Mobilization Forces, who have been trained and well equipped by the western coalition, are now prepared to back the Peshmerga in the fight against Daesh,” Hussein said, using another acronym for ISIS.
Peshmerga forces have recently regained large areas in northern Iraq from the fist of the radical group of Islamic State, including the Yezidi region of Shingal (Sinjar).
Speaking to ARA News, a spokesman for the Peshmerga Ministry in Iraqi Kurdistan said: “Any anti-ISIS effort is welcome, whether by the western powers or the local groups.”
“The Peshmerga has recaptured several towns and villages southwest of Kirkuk. The whole province will be cleansed of the terrorists in the coming phase,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
KURDS FORTIFY OIL-RICH CITY
Over the past two weeks, Kurdish army of the Peshmerga has been working on a project to fortify the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq in a bid to protect the oil-rich city against the threat of the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS), officials said.
The Peshmerga forces started early in January digging a trench along the southern suburb of Kirkuk, which has been exposed to ISIS offensive over the past few months.
Kamal Kerkuki, member of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Iraqi Kurdistan Region, said in a statement that the trench being worked on by the Peshmerga forces is aimed at maintaining the security in the city of Kirkuk against any aggression by ISIS terrorists.
Speaking to ARA News in Kirkuk, Peshmerga official Qassim Khourshid said: “ISIS terrorists have repeatedly tried to infiltrate into Kirkuk to hit headquarters of the Peshmerga and take over the city’s oil fields.”
“The trench will serve as a fortification against any offensive by the terror group,” he said.
Khourshid added that the trench project may continue to include most of the borders of the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq in order to protect the region’s people and resources against ISIS threat.
“This fortification is not aimed at separating the region from Iraq completely. Its main objective is to protect the Kurdistan Region which has sheltered thousands of Iraqis who escaped ISIS,” he said. “The Peshmerga proved its effective role in the war on this terror group, and the protection of civilians and the public properties have always been a top priority for our army.”
Kirkuk oil fields produce up to 500,000 barrels per day, according to official reports. ISIS has tried earlier to storm the city from the southern suburb, but the Peshmerga forces repelled the attacks in cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition’s air force.
Reporting by: Sozbin Cheleng
Source: ARA News