ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish Peshmerga forces are standing in a state of alert on the Sulaimani – Kirkuk highway as Iraqi forces launch a military campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in Kirkuk and surrounding provinces.
“Federal police and other Iraqi forces have launched a military operation in their areas against Da’esh [IS] that from the federal police front, they brought forces near Qarahanjir, but they will not cross into our areas,” Qaraman Kamal, the deputy of Peshmerga Ministry’s Chief of Staff, told Kurdistan 24 on Friday.
The Peshmerga are stationed near the town of Qarahanjir, with military vehicles and heavy weapons on the road.
Iraqi forces have been in charge of Kirkuk and other disputed territories since mid-October when they drove Peshmerga from the province in a military attack with the participation of Shia militias.
“We have full coordination,” Kamal continued. “Today, Iraqi forces had a military offensive against Da’esh in the district of Shwan.”
Over the past few days, Iraqi forces have launched a wide-scale military operation in Kirkuk with the purpose of clearing some areas from the jihadist group as IS activities continue to rise in the oil-rich and ethnically diverse province.
The campaign, named “Revenge of the Martyrs” in honor of eight security force members that IS kidnapped and executed in late June, is also being carried out in the provinces of Diyala and Salahuddin.
Kamal mentioned that there is a coordination officer in charge of communications between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces so that all sides are aware of pertinent operational details, especially where they are stationed in close proximity.
Regarding whether the Peshmerga Ministry has deployed further troops in Qarahanjir, Kamal explained that no additional Kurdish forces had been brought to the area, but rather had been deployed to the roads and surrounding areas to repel any possible counter-action and to intercept any fleeing IS members.
After three years of fighting in the war-torn country, Iraq declared victory against IS last December. However, since then, the extremist group has resumed insurgent attacks, particularly in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Soran Kamaran contributed to this report)