French-Peshmerga op kills 3 extremists in Tuz Khurmatu

At least three Islamic State (ISIS) militants were killed on Thursday in a joint operation launched by Peshmerga and French military forces on the fringes of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, outside disputed Tuz Khurmatu, according to local and Peshmerga sources.

“Today a French force together with [a special Peshmerga force] carried out an operation using aircraft in Shoraw, Palkana and Gharra villages,” Jamal Salih, the mayor of Naujul town, told Rudaw.

The Kurdistan Region’s armed forces, the Peshmerga, have a number of forces inside and outside of the official ministry. Specialty units are sometimes trained by internationals in counterterrorism, mine clearance, urban fighting, and other areas of warfare.

A senior Peshmerga official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that a French force accompanied the Peshmerga in the operation near the Palkana village close to Tuz Khurmatu — not to be confused with Palkana in western Kirkuk, close to Erbil province.

The three villages are located are in Naujul town which is between Kifri and Tuz Khurmatu in the Garmiyan administration — areas of the Kurdistan Region which border Iran.

Tuz Khurmatu is a disputed city claimed by Erbil and Baghdad is to Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen. Iraqi forces have managed the security portfolio of the city, including after the events of October 16, 2017.

The US-led international coalition to defeat ISIS was not immediately available for comment. French diplomats in Iraq were not able to comment.

Mayor Salih said in addition to the killing of three ISIS militants, several weapons depots belonging to the group were destroyed. He added that visible ISIS fighters have emptied 13 of 42 local villages.

The militants are essentially free to operate in the vacuum between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces where security gaps have been exposed after federal forces ousted the Peshmerga in the aftermath of the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum of September 2017.

To the west in the disputed areas, notably Makhmour some 60 kilometers southwest of Erbil, extremists continue to maintain a presence instilling fear among locals as they kill, torch farmlands and forcefully take taxes from them.

Sirwan Barzani, a Peshmerga commander on the Makhmour-Gwer Front, told Rudaw on Thursday that “the security situation of the Qaraj is in danger.”

Qarachogh Mountain, the Qaraj Plains, and the Zab area near Makhmour are areas connecting Erbil, Nineveh, Kirkuk and Saladin provinces.

Barzani said to remove the threats they have “called on the coalition and Iraqi Army for a joint operation in the region.”

“The Peshmerga’s demand is to station on the heights to prevent any possible reemergence of ISIS. The Iraqi Army has so far failed to take control of the area,” he said.

“They have not yet responded to our call,” Barzani claimed.

ISIS militants seized Makhmour and surrounding villages in 2014 before they were quickly routed in a combined operation led by the Peshmerga — supported by the coalition and fighters from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Although the jihadist group was declared defeated in Iraq in December 2017, its remnants have retreated into Iraq’s deserts and mountains, where they have resumed earlier strategies of hit-and-run tactics of kidnap, ambush, bombing, and execution.