ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – Hashd al-Shaabi Shia militias declare the start of the operation to retake the village of Bashir in southern Kirkuk controlled by the Islamic State (IS).
Najat Hassan, a Hashd al-Shaabi commander, told Kurdistan24 on Sunday that the “step-by-step” operation of retaking the Shia-Turkmen village of Bashir has already begun.
In the past three days, Hashd al-Shaabi forces have launched two attacks on the surrounding areas of the village to cut the IS supply-line, according to Hassan.
Iraqi media sources stated that the Shia militias launched an operation to retake the village today from three fronts. However, according to a security source to PUKmedia, “Hashd al-Shaabi militias were forced to retreat due to fierce resistance by IS extremists.”
The security source stated that IS attacked the Shia militias with twin car bombs killing 20 fighters and wounding 50 others, including two high-ranked commanders.
Kurdish officials are worried about Hashd al-Shaabi’s movement in southern Kirkuk and see it as a threat to the city’s future. Najat Ali, Director of the Asayish (intelligence) forces in Kirkuk, told Kurdistan24, “The Iraqi government is now using the operation to retake the village as a pressure card; they keep bringing reinforcement to the areas close to Kirkuk with no successful results on the ground.”
“We wonder what is so difficult for all these troops [Hashd al-Shaabi] to retake a village that has less than 50 IS extremists defending it,” Ali added.
Sheikh Jaafar Mustafa, a Peshmerga commander of the 70th brigadier, stated that Peshmerga forces were ready to retake the village without Hashd al-Shaabi and the Iraqi army, but the Iraqi government insisted on a triple effort.
Previously, Rebwar Talabani, acting chairman of Kirkuk Provincial Council, told Kurdistan24, “Without Peshmerga’s back up, Hashd al-Shaabi cannot retake Bashir even with new recruits."
“Liberation of the new areas surrounding Kirkuk should be done in coordination with Peshmerga forces. Hashd al-Shaabi cannot make any progress against IS in these areas on its own,” he added.
Bashir is a Turkmen-populated village that has been under IS control for two years. Hashd al-Shaabi has often tried unilaterally to retake the village from the extremists, but they have been unsuccessful.
Reporting by Baxtiyar Goran
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany