Heavy fighting as Peshmerga clash with ISIS south of Kirkuk

KIRKUK, Kurdistan (Rudaw) – Kurdish Peshmerga forces have began attacking ISIS bases southwest of Kirkuk, aiming to recapture Atshana and Auzeria villages from the Islamic State, a Rudaw correspondent reports on Saturday.

This is the second time Kurdish forces have tried to clear Atshana and Auzeria villages from the extremists. Last month, Peshmerga took temporary control of the areas but ISIS has since retaken the villages.

Airstrikes by the US-led coaltion were backing the Peshmerga attacks on Saturday, said Hunar Ahmed, Rudaw’s Kirkuk bureau chief. There was also coalition bombing aimed at pushing ISIS out of the areas surrounding Bashir village, southwest of Kirkuk, he added.

“Tal Ahmed village and the former train station between Bashir and Auzeria have already been retaken by our forces,” Sarhad Qadir, director of security in Kirkuk province, told Rudaw.

According to Ahmed, “Peshmerga forces are close to entering Auzeria village.”

In a separate report Saturday, a Peshmerga source told Rudaw the ISIS fighters started using propane tanks, usually used for stoves, as a weapon against Kurdish forces. The source, who declined to be named, speculated the use of makeshift explosives may be due to a decline in the group’s heavy weapons on the Kirkuk frontlines.

In recent weeks, the Peshmerga stung ISIS with a series of defeats, managing to protect large tracts of territory south of Kirkuk and its oilfields.