Security

Peshmerga crush ISIL in Iraq's Ninawa plain

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi forces head towards southern Mosul to take part in an operation to drive out the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'. [Photo courtesy of the Iraqi Ministry of Defence]

In a surprise military operation, Peshmerga forces dealt the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) a heavy blow, driving the group from nine villages east of Mosul and positioning themselves on the city's outskirts.

"Peshmerga forces now have control of nine villages within the cities of Nimrud and Bartala on Mosul's eastern front, known as al-Khazir," said Ghiyath Surji, media director of the Mosul centre of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, an Iraqi-Kurdish political party.

The villages of Mufti, Zahrat Khatoun al-Kubra, Zahrat Khatoun al-Sughra, Tal Aswad, Wardak, Kazkan, Tarjila, Toulband and Jamakour, all in Ninawa plain, were freed in early June, he told Mawtani.

"The villages were liberated following a large surprise attack by the Kurdish forces, which managed to cause heavy losses in ISIL's ranks," Surji said.

"Hundreds of terrorists were either killed or injured," including 10 would-be suicide bombers carrying explosive belts, he said, while 20 were taken captive.

Six soldiers were killed in the operation and five were wounded, Surji said.

Coalition warplanes "gave excellent support and helped us advance even with the fighting with the enemy conducted at times from a distance of only hundreds of metres", he said.

The Kurdish forces will not stop at this strategic victory, he added, but will "continue to advance to liberate all gunmen-controlled territory in Ninawa".

'Good hold of the territory'

The Kurdish forces "have good hold of the liberated territory and are on alert for any new military operations on the eastern front of Mosul", said Ninawa council security committee member Daoud al-Jundi.

"The latest operation enabled the Peshmerga to concentrate on the outskirts of Mosul, as they now are only 60 kilometres away from the city," he told Mawtani.

"The enemy suffered heavy losses in the operation both in lives and equipment," he added. "It lost its best fighters, in addition to many combat vehicles that were destroyed and large quantities of weapons and ammunition that were seized."

"Some fronts saw fierce fighting and violent resistance," he said. "But on other fronts the terrorists only threw their suicide elements into the fighting and fled the battlefield towards Mosul."

"The victory brought about by the Peshmerga forces was a high quality one and their attack on the terrorists' strongholds was marked with speed and surprise tactics," said Kurdistan Democratic Party in Mosul media officer Said Mamuzini.

Around 5,500 Peshmerga fighters took part in the operation, he told Mawtani, which succeeded in liberating an area of approximately 120 square kilometres near the road connecting Erbil and Mosul.

Peshmerga forces move in on Mosul

"The liberated villages have brought us very close to Mosul," he said, noting that the town of Qaraqosh, about 30 kilometres east of Mosul, is now within range.

Qaraqosh has been controlled by ISIL for the last two years.

"A total of at least 200 ISIL terrorists have died in the fighting on al-Khazir front, including leaders in the organisation," Mamuzini said, while Peshmerga forces continue their push to regain control of Ninawa plain towns and villages.

New military units have arrived in the Iraqi army base in Makhmour, south of Mosul, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence said in a June 13th statement.

"The legions of the 9th Armoured Division have moved out of Baghdad towards Ninawa," the statement said, adding that Minister of Defence Khalid al-Obaidi accompanied them "in order to lift the morale and fighting spirit" of the soldiers.

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