IS takes advantage of withdrawal of forces to attack Kurdish villages near Kirkuk
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – A Kurdish military source on Thursday reported that armed men took advantage of Peshmerga Forces withdrawing on Monday from areas surrounding Kirkuk and launched an attack on villages inhabited by Kakai Kurds in the south of the province.
The attack came over a day after Peshmerga Forces withdrew from disputed areas as Iraqi Forces and the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia advanced in an assault on Kirkuk and surrounding areas, notably the vulnerable city of Daquq.
A military source told Kurdistan 24 that a number of armed suspected Islamic State (IS) militants took advantage of the vacuum left by the withdrawal of Peshmerga Forces, and overnight attacked Kakai-Kurdish villages south of Daquq.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, but reports suggests the militant group had taken control of at least two villages.
The Kakais are an ethnoreligious minority whose villages surround the town of Daquq and span between areas that were controlled by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
Daquq is only a few kilometers south of Hawija, which was recently retaken from IS.
The deteriorating security situation in Daquq is a fallout of the latest escalation in tensions between the Iraqi Federal Government and the Kurdistan Region in the aftermath of the Sep. 25 referendum on independence.
Monday’s assault on the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, where both Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militia Hashd al-Shaabi took control of Kirkuk which had been under the protection of Peshmerga since mid-2014, was the first step in the Iraqi government imposing federal authority on the Kurdistan Region.
On Tuesday, Peshmerga Forces withdrew from disputed areas south of Erbil and in Sinjar (Shingal) as part of what is being described as an agreement between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government of Iraq, under the supervision of the US-led coalition, to return to pre-Mosul lines of defense.
On Wednesday, thousands of civilians continued to flee from Kirkuk out of fear of reprisals from Iraqi forces.
The international coalition and community have called for the de-escalation of tensions and urged all parties to resolve their differences through dialogue, not military action, and to focus on the fight against IS.