ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - The US-led coalition on 8 July carried air strikes destroying Islamic State (IS) targets near Makhmour.
“On July 8 in Iraq, Coalition military forces conducted two strikes consisting of two engagements against Daesh targets,” the US Central Command said in a public statement, using the Arabic acronym for the jihadist group. “Near Makhmour, one strike destroyed one Daesh-held building.
Peshmerga Colonel Srood, while speaking to Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday, clarified, however, that there no Peshmerga operations against IS near Makhmour on that day.
Thomas Veale, a spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, told Kurdistan 24 that the strikes were conducted in support of Iraqi security forces.
“All of our strikes in Iraq are conducted in support of Coalition and partner forces in line with our mission: to defeat Daesh remnants. We conducted these strikes to support our Iraqi Security Forces partners in their pursuit of these terrorists,” he said.
On 30 June, Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces and the US-led Coalition conducted a joint operation against the Islamic State (IS) near Makhmour, killing several members of the extremist group.
Rizgar Mohammed, the Mayor of Makhmour, previously told Kurdistan 24 that IS militants had increased their activities near the town, posing a direct threat to people’s lives in the area.
“Unfortunately, the presence and activities of Daesh in some villages and districts of Makhmour is a fact that cannot be denied,” Mohammed said.
Since the removal of the Iraqi dictatorship in 2003, the town has been under the administration of the Kurdistan Region.
Following a military offensive on Kurdish forces last October, the region is now under the control of Iraqi troops and the Iran-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia.
Since then, tensions between Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga forces have created a security vacuum that IS is now trying to exploit.
As a result, IS remnants have returned near Makhmour.
“[This] has led to a security vacuum, limiting the ability of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), Tribal Mobilization Forces (TMF), and the Federal Police, as well as the Peshmerga, to adequately secure them,” a recent report published by Armed Conflict Location and Events Dataset (ACLED) last week suggested.
“The topographical features of Kirkuk and the ‘colonization zone’ more generally are another important factor which offers advantages to IS militants by offering them areas where they can take refuge and stage attacks,” the report added.
Furthermore, a quarterly report to the US Congress on coalition operations by the Lead Inspector General released in May mentioned the same trend near the so-called green line that divides Iraqi troops and Peshmerga troops.
“The tension between the ISF and the Kurdish Peshmerga appeared to have created a security gap that ISIS militants and other Iraqis opposed to the Shia-led central government were able to exploit,” the report said.
“While violence remained low compared to previous years, ISIS militants, including some who were manning fake checkpoints, kidnapped, killed, and assassinated dozens of Iraqi politicians, security personnel, and civilians, particularly in four provinces along the green line,” the report concluded.
Editing by Nadia Riva