ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan24) – If the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces continue to make progress, Mosul could be freed within three months, said a senior Kurdish official on Friday.
“We conquered the suburbs fast. However, it is unknown how stiff of a defense [Islamic State (IS)] fighters will put up to defend the city,” the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani said in an interview with German Bild Newspaper.
“We are aware that they have hundreds of suicide bombers at their disposal,” he continued. “[IS] must have entire factories where its booby-traps are produced.”
Moreover, Barzani mentioned IS suicide bombers and booby-traps are the greatest threat security forces face while advancing toward Mosul.
“If we continue to make progress, then I expect that the city could be freed within three months,” the PM added.
Regarding Peshmerga forces entering the center of Mosul, Barzani said it was more appropriate if the Iraqi army advanced to the area to prevent any conflict with the population.
However, he noted Peshmerga would contribute if Baghdad requested their help.
Barzani stated IS insurgents are executing people in Mosul and using civilians as war shields to protect their grip on the strategic city.
Regarding civilian casualties, the Kurdish PM said forces do not aim at innocent people, but “[IS] knows exactly how to use civilians for their own purposes.”
Additionally, he thanked the German government for providing Peshmerga with Milan missiles which have been marked very effective by Kurdish forces. Barzani also emphasized the need for additional weapon supplies.
In another part of the interview, the PM discussed the Kurdish independence referendum. “The time has long been ripe to break free. But, we are focusing on the fight against [IS] for now,” he said.
He also acknowledged that after Mosul’s liberation, Kurdish officials would sit with Baghdad regarding independence.
“We’ve been waiting for too long. After 2003, we thought that there will be a real new beginning for a democratic Iraq,” Barzani stated.
“We are not Arabs here, but our own Kurdish nation. The international community, too, has to see it more realistically,” the PM added.
“A referendum on the independence of Kurdistan will be held at some point, and then it’s up to the people to decide their fate,” Barzani concluded.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany