Kurdish Peshmerga chasing ISIS out of western Kirkuk

ERBIL, Kurdistan (Rudaw)– A Peshmerga commander confirmed Wednesday that ISIS is on the defensive in Western Kirkuk, abandoning villages to the Kurdish forces and leaving dead bodies, as well as booby traps and land mines, behind.

“In today’s assault against ISIS-held villages in western Kirkuk we managed to recapture 12 villages so far and we had planned to reclaim 19 villages. Clashes are still underway and the Peshmerga are advancing to recapture the remaining villages,” Mohammed Haji Mahmoud, known as Kaka Hama, secretary general of the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic party told Rudaw.

“Although we do not have pre-prepared plans to attack Hawija, we are just 20 kilometers away from the ISIS-held town,” he added.

Mahmoud said he was unaware of the number of Peshmerga casualties but said that some had been wounded and killed. He added that ISIS left four dead bodies behind in the village of Mansouria.

Minister of Peshmerga minister Mustafa Qadir told Rudaw that plans set by the Peshmerga and the US-led coalition are “successfully implemented.”

“Bomb disposal teams are continually defusing bombs in the 12 villages liberated by the Peshmerga since this morning,” Qadir said.

Qadir said no casualty figures were yet available for ISIS because clashes were still underway.

Peshmerga forces on Wednesday recaptured large swaths of territory west of Kirkuk that were previously under ISIS control.

With the help of US-coalition airstrikes, the large scale operation began around 7am, said Rudaw reporter Sangar Abdulrahman who was at the scene of the offensive. In the early stages of the attack, the Garra Heights, a strategic position west of Kirkuk, as well as six villages, were captured by the Peshmerga.