Erbil – The Kurdish Peshmerga on Sunday launched an operation from two fronts in Bashiqa District, breaking through the Islamic State’s (ISIS) defensive lines and encircling the capital of the district, Bashiqa city.
Peshmerga spokesman Halgurd Hikmet told ARA News that forces on the Naweran and Bashiqa fronts have linked up. “We’ll wait […] to liberate Bashiqa, but first mine sweeping teams need to clean the villages,” he said.
“In total 27 villages were liberated in three fronts. We reached our target today,” Hikmet said. Another Peshmerga officer denied reports that Bashiqa city was retaken, saying that it was, in reality encircled.
More than 30,000 civilians used to inhabit Bashiqa city, including Christians, Arabs, Kurds and Shiites. After the Islamic State’s invasion in August 2014, most of the inhabitants fled to the Kurdistan Region.
In the past Kurdish Peshmera officers have criticized the US-led coalition for providing insufficient air support. However, Hikmet told ARA News that he had no complaints regarding today’s air cover. “We got enough air support; today the US coalition’s air force was very effective,” he said.
A Peshmerga volunteer on the front told ARA News that the Peshmerga forces had cut off all of the roads from Mosul to Bashiqa. Kurdish soldiers are reportedly fortifying the newly unified front in anticipation of a breakout.
Thousands of Peshmerga soldiers participated in the multi-prong offensive, fighting to push ISIS out of Bashiqa District. “[Today’s] operation follows recent, successful Peshmerga advances north and east of Mosul,” the Peshmerga General Command said in a statement.
“The morale of ISIS is gone; they have become very weak,” Peshmerga General Bahram Ali Siyasi, the commander of the Bashiqa operation, told ARA News. “Whereas the Peshmerga’s morale is high and their capabilities have improved, and the coalition has stepped up its support.”
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News