Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdish Peshmerga forces aided by the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Asayiş security apparatus and airstrikes by the US-led coalition targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) made major advances against the extremist group in the Kirkuk governorate in Iraq on Saturday, according to Kurdish security officials.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qader, the head of the Kirkuk police force, said Peshmerga forces liberated several areas in the northeastern province and “inflicted heavy losses on ISIS, killing dozens of ISIS fighters” during the operation.
He added that a “great number” of the extremist group’s heavy weapons and military supplies were also destroyed during the offensive, which continued until the early hours of Sunday evening.
Kurdish volunteer forces, known as the Peshmerga, have been attempting to liberate areas of the province from ISIS control since the group was able to capture them during its lightning advance across northern regions of Iraq in June of 2014.
Brig. Gen. Kawoh Ghoraib, the head of police in the town of Daquq—which lies in the south of Kirkuk province and is home to a Kurdish–and Turkmen–majority population—told Asharq Al-Awsat Saturday’s operation, which was launched at 5:30 am, had “succeeded 100 percent in achieving its goals after just eight hours.”
Lt. Rikot Mohamed, the head of the 16th Brigade of the Peshmerga’s ground forces, which were involved in the operation, told Asharq Al-Awsat his forces stationed in the town of Tuz Khurmato, which lies 55 miles (88 kilometers) south of Kirkuk, had followed up the attack at 7 am.
He said his forces were now attempting to secure all trenches in the area while awaiting reinforcements, adding that ISIS had planted several explosive devices throughout the region “which we are currently attempting to dismantle.”
Despite the success of Saturday’s operation and its swift conclusion, Brig. Gen. Ghoraib said these devices had caused difficulty for Kurdish forces during the offensive.
“The only problems the Peshmerga faced during the operation were the booby-trapped devices left by ISIS in the area and the bridges they had destroyed during previous battles,” Ghoraib added.
“However, Peshmerga engineer units were able to rebuild these bridges in order to allow its forces to cross . . . and also successfully removed several of these booby-trapped devices in order to speed up the advance.”
However, Ghoraib also revealed that a high-ranking member of the KRG’s Asayiş, Col. Khalil Ibrahim, was killed during the operation.
“Col. Hazar was killed during the operation when attempting to surround the enemy’s forces north of the village of Bashir, after a bomb placed inside his vehicle exploded,” he revealed, referring to Col. Ibrahim by his more well-known nom de guerre.