ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will follow up on Peshmerga fighters who were taken prisoner during the Islamic State’s (IS) reign in northern Iraq following recent information obtained from a jihadist leader’s confession, a Kurdish official confirmed on Sunday.
“We have information that after the liberation of Mosul, a group of Peshmerga fighters, imprisoned by Da’esh [IS], fell into the hands of Iraqi forces. Unfortunately, they have been held in prison alongside Da’esh members. The Ministry of Peshmerga has not been fully informed about that [from Iraqi authorities],” Abubakr Ahmed, the spokesperson for the Peshmerga Ministry, told Kurdistan 24 on Sunday.
Following the emergence of the jihadist group in 2014, IS captured dozens of Peshmerga fighters, many of whose whereabouts remain unknown.
According to the Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Peshmerga, 44 Peshmerga fighters have gone missing over the past few years.
Families of missing Peshmerga have repeatedly pointed their fingers at Iraqi authorities, claiming they have been told by some reliable sources in Baghdad that Iraqi forces had transferred IS’s Peshmerga prisoners to jails in central Iraq following the defeat of the jihadist group.
Iraqi authorities recently released a video with the confession of Jamal al-Mashadani, a Saddam Hussein-era intelligence officer who later became a senior IS member.
Mashadani became IS’ governor of the areas of Kirkuk Province which fell under the control of the jihadist group in 2014.
He stated that he was involved in the operation that captured Peshmerga fighters, although he claimed only 18 were taken, not 21, the number given in news reports and by Iraqi intelligence.
Infamously, the Kurdish fighters were made to wear orange jumpsuits and were paraded through the center of Hawija in metal cages on pickup trucks “to lift the morale” of jihadist supporters, Mashadani said, with the implicit threat that they would face a similar fate to that of the downed Jordanian pilot, who was burnt alive by IS while caged.
The Peshmerga’s spokesperson explained to Kurdistan 24 that they had formed a special committee to follow up the fate of the missing fighters with Iraqi authorities in Baghdad.
The Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defense Committee is reportedly planning to help with the investigations, in coordination with the Peshmerga Ministry.
“We have held several meetings in parliament so far, but the head of the Committee has yet to be selected… On Wednesday, the Committee will convene to discuss the issue of Peshmerga prisoners and follow up with the Da’esh prisoner [Mashadani],” Nasr Harki, a Kurdish member of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi Parliament, told Kurdistan 24.
The Kurdish Peshmerga were one of the most efficient ground troops in defeating IS. As the jihadist group emerged in 2014 and the Iraqi army collapsed, Peshmerga forces, with the support of the US-led coalition, contained and pushed back the IS threat in the north of the country.
Over 1,700 Peshmerga have fallen while fighting the jihadist group and more than 10,000 were wounded, according to the Peshmerga Ministry.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Hoshmand Sadiq)