Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdish Peshmerga forces are “coordinating” with the remaining Shi’ite national mobilization forces in Jaloula after liberating the Kurdish-dominated town from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters last month.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, the Peshmerga commander of the town denied that Kurdish forces are having problems with allied Shi’ite national mobilization forces, saying that while one group of Shi’ite fighters have been ejected from the northern town, a different group of Shi’ite fighters remain.
Peshmerga commander Mahmoud Sinkawi told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There is no problem with the Shi’ite fighters, they are coordinating with us. There are only a small number of them in Jaloula, around 15 fighters.”
“As for the previous group of Shi’ite fighters that were present in Jaloula they were very bad, they did not leave anything in peace and that is why we expelled them. This force did not stay in Jaloula for long,” he added.
Sinkawi confirmed that Peshmerga forces have set up patrols and checkpoints in the region and that any force that wants to enter must first request Kurdish permission. “Peshmerga forces are not allowing any other forces to enter the town. So now, if Iraqi military forces or national mobilization forces want to pass through areas under our control . . .they must ask for permission first.”
In line with ISIS’s tactic of booby-trapping territory it is fleeing, the Peshmerga commander confirmed that the greatest problem facing allied Kurdish and Shi’ite forces in the town is over the proliferation of improvised explosive devices and booby-traps.
“The operation to cleanse Jaloula from explosive devices is very difficult; ISIS has booby-trapped everything,” Sinkawi told Asharq Al-Awsat. He called for more assistance, including engineering troops and equipment, to oversee the disarming operation.
While Anwar Hussein, the mayor of Jaloula, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are waiting for the military forces to finish their operation to cleanse the town from explosive devices in order to return. The forces that are present in Jaloula have warned us that we would be risking our lives if we return.”