KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Peshmerga forces on Friday morning rescued an ethnic Arab police Lieutenant Colonel who had been kidnaped by the Islamic State (IS), along with some of his family members.
On Friday early morning, a group of IS militants attacked the Malha village near the town of Dibis located in the northwest of Kirkuk. The jihadists kidnapped Lt. Colonel Farhan Hama Zirgan from the Kirkuk police and seven of his sons and cousins.
The IS militants beheaded and executed all the Lt. Colonel's seven family members, Captain Ali Mahmoud, the head of security in Dibis, told Kurdistan 24.
He mentioned that the militants also kidnapped Zirgan, but the Peshmerga chased the jihadists down and were able to rescue him before the group could flee.
“The bodies of Zirgan’s family members were strewn on the ground in the village of Malha when the Peshmerga arrived. It was at that point that Peshmerga forces pursued Da’esh in the area to rescue Zirgan,” Mahmoud added, using the Arabic acronym for IS.
In a live broadcasted interview with Kurdistan 24, Zirgan described the events and praised the role of the Peshmerga forces in rescuing him.
“Those who attacked us were Da’esh. One of them had a very long beard and told me that he had been monitoring me for two days. What happened to us is an absolute catastrophe,” he said.
Dibis is located near the Bai Hassan oil field. On July 18, IS militants attacked the village of Chirakh, near the same town of Dibis, and killed five civilians, including the local head of the community.
Zirgan who wrapped a ‘Peshmerga’ Kurdistan flag around his neck, stated that two IS militants were killed in the clashes between the jihadist group and the Peshmerga.
“All of my martyred family members gave their lives for the Kurdistan Region and the Peshmerga,” he said while raising the flag around his neck. “The Peshmerga protects the people of Kirkuk regardless of their ethnic and religious background.”
The family members which IS beheaded and executed are Mohammed Farhan al-Azawi, Ahmed Farhan al-Azawi, Ghani Farhan al-Azawi, Saad Hassan al-Azawi, Ahmed Hassan al-Azawi, Athir Mohammed Suhel al-Azawi, and Hussein Mohammed al-Hamdani.
The city of Hawija is one of the remaining IS strongholds located in the west of Kirkuk. The jihadists often try to sneak into Kirkuk to carry out terrorist attacks. Peshmerga and security forces foil most of the attempts.
Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim has repeatedly asked Baghdad to accelerate plans to retake Hawija from IS, stating the presence of IS in Hawija poses a serious threat to Kirkuk, which is home to 700,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Editing by G.H. Renaud
(Additional reporting by Soran Kamaran)